Today we chat with New York-based art advisor, Heidi Lee Komaromi! Heidi has 17 years of experience in the art world, specializing in Post-War and Contemporary art. She has built and managed collections for individuals, businesses and nonprofits having acquired or appraised numerous works of art. She has also held directorships at artnet and Waterhouse & Dodd Gallery and recently, she co-curated a multi-million-dollar art platform for an Austin based art e-commerce company funded by GV, Redpoint and IVP. Heidi holds a masters degree from Christie’s Education in ‘Modern and Contemporary Art and the Market’ and is a USPAP certified art appraiser. Please enjoy this week’s fantastic Frank Talk with Heidi!
What was your first job in the Arts?
I worked for VIART Corp, an art management firm based in Manhattan founded by two women. They managed collections for Fortune 500 companies like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Capital Group. It was a small firm but some collections had over ten thousand objects. It was a great training ground for me.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
How to run my own art advisory business and handle large collections. The founders were meticulous and vigilant about their clients’ collections and never made excuses for anything. Professionalism permeated throughout the office culture.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
When I moved to Manhattan after college, I quickly fell into the downtown art scene. There were happenings all the time—it was electrifying! Not until 9/11 hit did I decide to shift gears completely to follow my passion for art. It was risky but I knew it was the right decision so I started curating shows with a friend out of my apartment. I had no furniture for a while!
What do you do now?
I’m still art advising and curating just with a five-year-old in tow 🙂
Where are you from?
Westchester. I am a native New Yorker.
What is the arts community like there?
At that time there was no bustling contemporary art center like Manhattan but I loved the Bronx Museum.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
I’d say it was more my family than my surroundings that influenced my passion for art. My mom collected everything under the sun and my aunt is a master Hangul calligrapher in Korea who was an inspiring role model.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
It’s important to find a niche doing something that you’re not only good at but very passionate about. Art is a labor of love.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
I treasure my relationships with the numerous artists I’ve been fortunate to meet over my 17-year career. I am also lucky to have traveled the world and acquired hundreds of works of art from emerging to blue chip artists on behalf of clients. I once curated a collection with over 300 works! The collection would be worth over $60 million today. One of my most memorable moments was acquiring a large 1950s color field painting by Mark Rothko.
What has been a challenge for you?
Surviving three recessions! With each–the dot com bubble, the Great Recession and today’s pandemic-driven recession–I had to adapt quickly and be resilient. Every twist and turn offered new learning experiences that helped me grow.
What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)?
I read the news constantly and follow key social media accounts.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
I was asked by an artist to pose for him as Marilyn Monroe.
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
I think the most beneficial professional relationships are when both parties recognize potential in each other and are invested in each other’s growth, as a person or as a business.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
Being pro-active, resourceful, a self-starter and having good problem-solving skills are all desirable traits to me. No one holds your hand in the art world.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for a giving a great interview?
Have a few tricks up your sleeve—speaking a second language, writing skills or social media savvy can be an advantage. For interviews, prepare ahead of time by doing your research or reach out to people who can offer good insight or advice. Oh, and be on time.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
I like to say there are two sides of the industry—the creative and the capital. Once you know where you stand on that spectrum you can follow that career path with a clearer vision. If you tend to relate to artists and love the creative process then curating, academia or working with artists might be right for you. If you are more quantitative and enjoy the business side of art then gallery management or auctions sales might be more your speed. That said, many roads lead to Rome.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
Gerhard Richter: Painting After All in New York. I’m looking forward to the museums opening up after Covid-19 especially the MET which will open with an exhibition dedicated to Jacob Lawrence.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
Tough question! Hilma Af Klint, Anni Albers, Kara Walker, Judy Chicago and Donna Huanca.
What artwork is in your home office?
Rashid Johnson, George Condo, Kehinde Wiley, Ellen Harvey, Takashi Murakami, Francis Bacon.
What is your greatest WFH challenge? Or a WFH luxury you don’t want to lose ever again?
Balancing parenting and domestic roles has been hard but I love spending more time with my son.
How do you think art can play a fundamental role in the world’s recovery?
Art will always be the catalyst we need to move humanity forward and artists are the ones who can present the freshest ideas and critique the most difficult issues. They take the biggest risks so we can expand our world and hence our thinking. We so desperately need art right now.
How do you think art should be shared and/or experienced moving forward?
Publicly and transparently.
How has your current job adapted to the new virtual landscape? What do you think can be done better?
I actually just partnered up with a Christie’s alum and we are launching TogetherApart soon, a collection of limited-edition artist-designed faces masks. A portion of proceeds will be donated to the Artist Relief fund which give grants to help artists affected by the pandemic (to be announced on my Instagram @heidileekomaromi). I’m also doing distanced viewings, OVRs, and conducting remote appraisals—there’s always room for innovation and improvement.
What is your go to snack in quarantine? And your go to soundtrack?
Caffeine. The XX, Imagine Dragons, Janis Joplin, Tampa Red. It’s pretty random right now.
Since we are all at home and exploring more galleries and museums online, perhaps some for the first time, when the quarantine is lifted, what is your first art filled destination?
The MoMA’s Adam Pendleton exhibition and the Second Garage Triennial of Contemporary Russian Art, online though!
It can be argued that the art world is finally forced to adopt and adapt technologies that have long been a part of other industries. Agree or Disagree?
And finally, do you think the art world should be more transparent?