Alexandra Freedman is the Founder and Creative Director of the art advisory, Electra Projects. The company advances a diversified approach to collection building and management with connoisseurship and experience across the emerging, mid-career, and blue-chip contemporary art sectors.
Alexandra began her career at Christie’s, New York as an auction coordinator in the Impressionist & Modern Art department, learning from top specialists about collection management. She eventually transitioned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she gained a deep understanding of client relations and stewardship. In 2015, Alexandra joined Paddle8, the online auction platform, to develop their global collector and consignor networks while assisting top clients with buying and selling at auction.
Alexandra holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Cornell University and a Master’s degree in Modern Art, Connoisseurship, and History of the Art Market from Christie’s Education, New York.
Alexandra’s Latin American background, combined with her New York roots, has shaped her advisory practice and aesthetic. She is a member of the Female Design Council and an avid supporter of the arts. Her comprehensive understanding of the contemporary and emerging art markets, along with her passion for travel, experience, culture, and conversation, are the forces behind Electra Projects.
What was your first job in the Arts?
An internship at Freeman’s Auction House in Philadelphia during my summer break between my Sophomore and Junior years at Cornell University.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
It was an amalgamation of many things: Learning to pay attention to detail, to observe and to follow the systems in place, to exemplify good manners and patience with clients, and to exercise clear, thoughtful communication.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
During my college years. I was always passionate about writing, history, and culture. I was an undergraduate in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University, undecided in my major, and gravitated towards Art History. Cornell had a terrific program and my advisor, Professor Judith Bernstock, recommended that I explore the auction industry as a professional career which led me to my first internship at Freeman’s, an internship at Christie’s, and, subsequently, to Christie’s Education Master’s program. My Master’s in Modern Art, Art Business, and Connoisseurship provided me with a springboard to continue pursuing a career in the art world.
What do you do now?
I am an independent art advisor and collection manager. I founded my business, Electra Projects, in 2018.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Haverford, a suburb outside of Philadelphia, PA. I’ve lived in New York for the past 11 years.
What is the arts community like there?
The Philadelphia arts scene is extraordinary. You have access to world class art collections and museums embedded in a rich, cultural history. Philly is often overshadowed by New York City, but it is the perfect arts-centric weekend getaway. The Rodin Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, the Kimmel Center, the ICA… there is so much to take in, and there’s an amazing food scene beyond the Philly cheesesteak.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
Absolutely. I was fortunate enough to spend many afternoons at the Barnes Foundation, on its original property in Merion, Pennsylvania, which was next to my high school (now part of St. Joseph’s University). Dr. Barnes’ collection is exceptional, one of my favorites, and it taught me about the passion and psychology behind collecting and the importance of diversifying your collecting interests (something that holds true in my advisory practice to this day). The new Barnes Foundation is outstanding – no visit to Philadelphia is complete without a walk through its galleries.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Stay curious and build your network. Listen to and observe your peers and find a mentor. Be ready and willing to adapt on the fly, no job or task is too big or too small, and try not to cut corners. If you are client facing, a phone call can be more effective than an email or text. Always be professional and polished.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
There are many moments, big and small, throughout my professional career that I’m proud of. The first was securing an internship with Christie’s Chairman Emeritus Stephen Lash, during my time as a graduate student, where I learned valuable business skills and the importance of client relations and professionalism from Mr. Lash and his team. The second was having the opportunity to work directly with the former Vice President of Institutional Advancement Nina Diefenbach, at The Met Museum. Nina is a powerhouse in museum fundraising and a female executive I truly admire.
After my tenure at The Met, I joined Paddle8, the former online auction platform, to help advance their client development efforts. The three years I spent at Paddle8 were invaluable in the sense that I gained hands-on experience at a tech start-up that went through so many stages of success and failure.
Finally, my greatest achievement is putting my fears aside, and believing in myself and my ability to start my own business, to carve my own path, defy expectations, and learn from my own failures. In my role as an advisor, nothing is more satisfying than connecting with a collector and introducing them to an artist they may not have known about, and ultimately, placing a new acquisition on their wall.
What has been a challenge for you?
Leaving behind the traditional, and often more secure, job-scape. Going independent was a leap of faith and working alone can be emotionally taxing. I have a vision for my business and have had to learn to trust that it takes time to get there. Having a support team of family, friends, and art industry colleagues has been incredibly helpful.
What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)?
I like to take a break and scroll through home tours on Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, and other interior design outlets to check out the art on collectors’ walls. It’s inspiring to see what people choose to collect and live with.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
Not altogether weird, but rather uncomfortable. A professional experience in my early career exposed me to challenges that face many young, aspirational professionals in the art world and beyond. While I was hired to carry out an advisory role, I quickly found myself confronting tasks that fell largely outside my job description and were both personal and sensitive in nature. It was an early lesson in standing your ground. It taught me the value in discerning professionalism and scruples among those you work with.
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
A good employee is observant and motivated. They are a team player who treats their colleagues with respect and are not afraid to ask questions or seek help.
A good boss is someone who treats their employees with respect, who knows how to communicate and delegate tasks to their team in a thoughtful manner, and as a good leader, they take the time to get to know their employees and help cultivate their skills.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
Someone who is confident, polite, curious, and has a proven track record of experience and education that coincides well with the job description.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for a giving a great interview?
Being approachable, friendly, and positive.
When interviewing, it’s important to look professional, arrive on time, and smile. Come prepared, make sure you’ve done your “homework” on the company and the position, be friendly and relaxed. It’s all about being able to present yourself well, converse about your skills and accomplishments, and ask appropriate questions.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
Be judicious with your job search.
Be confident, but humble.
Recognize that the art world is much bigger than you think; beyond the artists, galleries, museums, and auction houses, there are many important roles and sectors such as conservators, framers, shippers, engineers, designers, fundraisers, appraisers, PR/marketing, tech…
Any other anecdotes about your working experience that you would like to share?
There are many: My most inspiring moments have centered around artist studio visits. The artist is the origin of this industry and market and it is wonderfully refreshing to hear and learn about their creative process, their reason, and their message.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
The pandemic has really curtailed gallery and museum visits, but last fall I finally visited Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas, and Art Omi and Magazzino Italian Art in the Hudson Valley. I also really enjoyed Philip Guston at Hauser & Wirth in Los Angeles last September.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
Only 5?!?! Right now…
Kerry James Marshall
What artwork is in your home office?
A print by Julia Chiang that reads “YESYESYES” – a positive reinforcement.