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Frank Talks

Eliza Ali – Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ART SHE SAYS

Eliza Ali courtesy Morgan Maher
Eliza Ali courtesy Morgan Maher

Eliza Ali is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ART SHE SAYS, the leading media platform empowering women in the art industry. Prior to launching her company, she was an editorial assistant at Hamptons and Gotham magazines and worked at an entertainment law firm assisting NYC’s top attorneys and high-profile clients in the art and film industries. With a women’s college education and an art history background, Eliza has curated art shows in Tribeca and the Chelsea Gallery District, promoting female artists and empowering women in the art business and beyond. 

As a New York-based writer, photographer, content creator, digital media strategist, and art dealer, Eliza continues to redefine the art world’s connection to media—connecting the realms of art, women’s empowerment, events, and luxury content. She has developed many relationships throughout the art world and creative industries, including high-powered women at art advisory firms, auction houses, museums, and galleries.

Eliza received her B.A. in International Relations and Art History from Mount Holyoke College and studied French at Université de Paul Valéry in Montpellier, France. 

What was your first job in the Arts?
I was the Sales Director at HK Art Advisory. 

What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
I learned how to be self-sufficient, communicate with clients, facilitate art sales, curate shows, and how to function within a small business.​

Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I studied art history in school, but ended up working for art and entertainment lawyers where I saw all the legal side of the art world, from artist and gallery agreements, to intellectual property disputes, to partnership agreements between dealers. I think everyone should work at a law firm at least once. While this gave me an incomparable knowledge-base in legal writing, I found myself bored to death and decided to pursue a career where I’d be closer to the art itself. 

What do you do now?
I am the Editor-in-Chief of ART SHE SAYS, and art advisor specializing in women artists. 

Where are you from?
NYC. 

What is the arts community like there? 

The art scene here is out of this world. From Antiquities, to Impressionism, to Post-War Contemporary Art, and beyond — the city has held many historical exhibitions and there are a so many galleries and museums to choose from.

Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
Yes, I always say one year in New York is equivalent to 5 years. There are so many people you meet, and so much to discover — the international and creative hub of NYC brings exciting opportunities every single day, if you put yourself out there. 

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
I’ve interviewed so many women across different career fields on this question! Whether you are an artist, a curator, or an art dealer, the advice remains the same: The art world is largely a relationship-based industry. Trust and transparency are your greatest currencies.

What is one of the greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
Building an art magazine and advisory from scratch. 

What has been a challenge for you?
Giving directions to others. As a founder of a small business, you’re so used to executing a million tasks at once at full speed, following an organized mess in your head that is only logical to you. So when it comes down to giving directions to others, it can be difficult to articulate the method to your madness, when many times these tasks come as second nature.  

What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
As a magazine that also functions as an art advisory…every day is weird! 

What do you think defines a good employee? And what defines a good boss?
A good employee is someone who can take the time to understand the whole ecosystem first, and question why they are doing what they are doing, rather than blindly following directions. Someone who takes initiative without being asked and can think three months ahead instead of just one hour at a time.

What do you think makes a person hirable?
Personable skills. Especially in the art world, likability is a must. Even if you are bullshitting everything you know, I would rather hire someone who can articulate themselves well in a social setting than someone who has a ton of technical knowledge and poor communication skills.

What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for a giving a great interview?
Whether you are working at a small business or a large corporate museum job, it is important to mark your territory. Make casual conversation with people. Speak at every meeting. Let your voice be heard. As said before, take the time to understand the whole ecosystem you are working in, and question why you are doing what you are doing, rather than blindly following directions. To give a good interview, go into the interview with the mindset: “Is this job right for me?” Rather than “am I right for this job?” Essentially you are investing your time at this place and with these people for the next few years, so it is important to ask a lot of questions to know whether you will like spending time here—even something as simple as, what software system do you use? What is the company culture like? How does your company look after its employees and their professional growth?

Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
Try everything. There are so many fields besides artist and curator to choose from. If you need some career inspiration, read ART SHE SAYS or Art Frankly’s Frank Talks 😉

Any other anecdotes about your working experience that you would like to share?

You live and you learn. This is the only way.

What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?
The Alice Neel retrospective at the Met Museum.

If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
Only 5? It changes every season. Currently: Angela Santana, Chantal Joffe, Gina Beavers, Johanna Dumet, Francoise Gilot, Frankenthaler…and maybe a Ruth Asawa hanging from the ceiling.

How do you think art can play a fundamental role in the world’s recovery from Covid19? Art has the power to create thought provoking concepts and conversations, as well as transform thoughts and ideas into visual energy. It has the power to inspire, heal, and influence. The world will recover through creativity. 

What artwork is/was in your home office? 

Three red and white works by Chinese American artist Fong Min Liao. 

What is/was your greatest WFH challenge? Or a WFH luxury you don’t want to lose ever again? I’ve been fortunate that my entire business is based on WFH. I can’t imagine anything else.

How has your current job adapted to the new virtual landscape?

What do you think can be done better, if anything? Since ART SHE SAYS started as a digital magazine, we actually thrived better during the pandemic as everyone was adapting to the virtual shift. 

It can be argued that the art world has finally been forced to adopt and adapt technologies that have long been a part of other industries. Agree or Disagree?

Agree.

How do you think art should be shared and/or experienced moving forward? 

Through events and conversations (check out our Collector’s Club!) 

And finally, do you think the art world should be more transparent? 

Yes and no. Yes for collectors looking for art in the primary market, especially those who have no art buying experience, and no for the seasoned or blue-chip collector going privately through the secondary market. However within the privacy of each secondary market transaction, the information between buyer, advisor, and seller, should always be transparent.

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