Frank Talks

Irene C Papanestor – Contemporary Art Advisor and Appraiser

Headshot is a detail of the painting "I Ask of You" (2018) by artist Sarah Kurz
Headshot is a detail of the painting "I Ask of You" (2018) by artist Sarah Kurz

Irene C Papanestor is a contemporary art advisor and appraiser. Irene provides expertise and personalized guidance to beginning and established collectors of modern and contemporary art in all media. Irene brings more than 20 years of gallery, museum and research experience to her advisory. She is a member of the Association of Professional Art Advisors (APAA) and is a Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) compliant appraiser through the Appraisers Association of America (AAA). Irene has offices in New York City and Los Angeles and can be found on Instagram @icalliopeart

What was your first job in the Arts? 

Immediately following graduation from college, I was offered an entry level administrative assistant position at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Department of American Paintings and Sculpture. 

What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job? 

That being detail oriented and well organized is of paramount importance. But really, I observed that the curators had an incredible work ethic and were intellectually and personally passionate about what they were doing. It set a very high standard for me. 

Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
When I followed my gut and chose to accept a summer internship at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in DC researching Frank Lloyd Wright’s never built Crystal Heights project rather than one at the State Department. 

What do you do now? 

I’m an independent art advisor and appraiser with a focus on modern and contemporary fine art. I work in both NYC and LA. 

Where are you from? 

Ridgewood, NJ. 

What is the arts community like there? 

I’d describe it as “New York adjacent.” 

Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today? 

Absolutely. My father is from Greece, and I began traveling there as a toddler. Some of my earliest memories are of playing hide-and-seek at the Acropolis. My first encounters with art felt joyful, organic, approachable, and accessible – an experience I hope to inspire in my clients as they explore the art world. 

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world? 

Align yourself with ethical people and organizations. 

What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far? 

Establishing and continuing to grow my business. 

What has been a challenge for you? 

Weathering periods of economic uncertainty such as the one we’re collectively living through right now and riding that wave. 

What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)? 

I’m a big list maker. I make lists for everything I need to do both short and long term. I also check the Instagram feeds of artists I follow. I enjoy seeing what art they’re looking at for inspiration and what’s happening in their studios. 

What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career? 

Act like there was absolutely nothing unusual about presenting artwork to a new client in the office of a gallerist who was simultaneously chain-smoking and drinking wine very early in the afternoon on a Wednesday. It looked like the party had been going for a while. 

What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss? 

A good employee understands that they are there to support and amplify the mission of the organization that hired them, not their own agenda. A good boss offers mentorship, constructive and respectful feedback, and opportunities for growth. 

What do you think makes a person hirable? 

A willingness to learn, palpable enthusiasm, and zero sense of entitlement. 

What is your advice for making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for giving a great interview?
The ability to work collaboratively with colleagues is always a positive attribute. 

A great interview begins with solid preparation. Following the interview, the candidate should feel that they’re as much as a good fit for the job as the job is the right fit for them. A solid match is a two-way street. 

Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world? 

There’s no *one* “right” way or path forward in this field. Follow opportunities when and where they arise – some will surprise you. Allow your interests to evolve organically, and above all find and help build the community around you. 

What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year? 

That’s difficult to answer because everything feels like it’s the best thing I’ve seen since living in relative isolation for the past 10 months. In 2020 post-lockdown NYC, I loved Louis Fratino’s show at Sikkema Jenkins, Alison Rossiter at Yossi Milo, and Derek Fordjour at Petzel. I was in CA for the entirety of the “(Nothing but) Flowers” group show at KARMA and it gutted me that I missed it. The Jack Whitten show at Hauser & Wirth as well as the Morandi/Albers show at Zwirner are both early 2021 must-sees. 

If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection? 

Elizabeth Peyton’s dachshund portrait “Isolde Enchanted Petitcreiu,” anything by Joan Mitchell, an Etel Adnan painting of Mt. Tamalpais, a Lucas Arruda seascape, and a copy of Nan Goldin’s slide show “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.” Oh, and a Donald Judd desk or bookshelf for my home office. 

What artwork is in your home office? 

An Eleanor Ray painting, a Vija Celmins print, a Greek icon that’s been in my family for generations, a Richard Misrach photograph, and a drawing that was given to me by my dear friend Eli Sudbrack a.k.a. Assume Vivid Astro Focus (AVAF). 

What is your greatest WFH challenge? 

Spending too much time with my dog, Rory. 

Or a WFH luxury you don’t want to lose ever again? 

Spending so much time with my dog, Rory. 

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