Isabel Telonis is a Marketplace Manager at Artsy, working directly with Artsy’s diverse client base—including 3,000+ international galleries and 1 million+ collectors—to provide a joyful and trusted art buying experience. She is primarily responsible for managing Artsy’s commercially-active marketplace support channels, optimizing and scaling e-commerce support processes, and serving as a product-business collaborator. Isabel earned her Bachelor’s degree in Art History & Visual Culture from Fairfield University, and her Master’s degree in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, New York.
What was your first job in the Arts and what was the most useful or important thing you learned in that experience?
My first job in the arts was working as a gallery intern at Winston Wächter Fine Arts in Chelsea. I loved every second of working with a small team of intelligent and capable women. I learned the importance of digitizing a collection through online databases, as I worked closely on updating their inventory records. I also learned the importance of communicating in a concise but impactful manner, whether that’s proposing a new idea to your team or composing an email to one of your artists.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I fell in love with the industry at a young age. I was fortunate enough to attend school K-12 one block away from the Met, so I was in the museum every week from ages 5 to 18. When deciding what to study in college, I knew that studying what I was most passionate about was the best decision for myself, and that I could figure out my career path later. Having various art world internships and jobs that I thoroughly enjoyed during college and graduate school solidified that I was going to pursue a career in the industry.
What do you do now?
I am a Marketplace Manager at Artsy, the leading online fine art marketplace. I work on a mix of things — marketplace operations, e-commerce support on both the gallery and collector side, as well as sales enablement initiatives.
Where are you from and what is the arts community like there?
I was born and raised in New York City and have never lived anywhere else! I couldn’t feel luckier to have grown up in the arts capital of the world, and not just fine art — I am so grateful for all of the beautiful shows, concerts, and meals I’ve experienced as well.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
100%! I knew that working in the arts was a definite. Artsy’s headquarters are also in New York City, so I’m grateful to have the unique opportunity of working in both the arts and tech space in my home city.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Always have your north star vision in mind! It will guide you through your decision making, whether in your current role or where to take your career in the art world. Knowing why you’re in the business and what you strive to accomplish will keep you motivated and on the right path.
What is one of the greatest accomplishments in your career so far? And what has been a challenge?
It’s really fulfilling to work at a start-up because you get to be a part of many “firsts” at the company. One of my favorite accomplishments was working with a collector, gallery, and the gallery’s Artsy account manager to secure the highest-value sale via our e-commerce checkout options, which we launched in 2019. This sale still holds the record for being the highest-value sale through this purchase mechanism to date (though this will hopefully change soon!).
How is your current job adapting to the ever-changing digital landscape? What do you think can be done better, if anything?
I’m very lucky, since Artsy is best positioned for this ever-changing digital landscape. We are the best marketplace for discovering, buying, and selling art online, which has only become more true during COVID-19 when physical art spaces were shut down. We’re proud that we’re able to support galleries and artists through our marketplace when brick-and-mortar wasn’t an option
One thing I believe could improve across the art world in general is mobile optimization — art dealers need to make it easy to buy art not just from a computer or a website, but from a mobile phone in particular, as this is now the method buyers most prefer.
What do you think defines a good employee? And what defines a good boss?
In my opinion, a good employee is someone who is willing to take on new tasks while setting appropriate boundaries, excited about contributing to company goals, and brings a positive attitude to work each day. A good boss is someone who is empathetic but provides consistent, impactful feedback to foster growth.
What is your advice for making yourself stand out in the workplace? Any good tips for giving a great interview?
Some advice I got from a sales leader at Artsy is that your numbers/KPIs can speak for you to a certain extent, but YOU have to speak for you most! Highlight and share your wins with your manager and team leaders each week. It might feel strange to write your manager an email about all the great things you accomplished that week, but go for it. Celebrating our wins is so important, especially as women—it should not make you feel arrogant, but empowered!
What artwork is/was in your home office?
I’m at the print collecting stage of my art buying career and am very fortunate to have artist friends and family members! So I have a large print of the New York City skyline (based on the view from Artsy’s office) by my friend/colleague, a limited edition Sanford Biggers print, and two beautiful black-and-white ink drawings by my aunt.
What is/was your greatest WFH challenge? Or a WFH luxury you don’t want to lose ever again?
I’d say the greatest challenge is not having those spontaneous conversations with colleagues/my manager in the office — I love bending someone’s ear in real life or talking through solutions with others! I do find, however, that my productivity is higher at home since I have a quiet workplace.
What about the art world in 2022 are you most excited about?
Busy art fair seasons in real life! I miss seeing art, friends, and clients in person through organic collisions at fairs.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
Similar to my answer above, but always keep your north star mission in mind. Reflect on why you’re in the business and what you strive to accomplish, as this will help guide your career path from the start. Connections are also so key because the art world is so small — no matter how cliché it sounds, keep in touch with your classmates since some will likely be your colleagues one day!
What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?
I visited “The Medici Portraits & Politics” at the Met last week and spent what felt like hours there. I love the Italian Renaissance and the curation was beautifully done.
How do you think the art world can become more transparent?
Price transparency would be a good start. Many find buying from a gallery intimidating because it’s difficult or time consuming to find out the price of a work. I don’t believe pricing should be information that only some have access to, and I think many galleries would see that works with public pricing sell better/faster!
How do you think art should be shared and/or experienced moving forward?
Perhaps a bit of a non-answer, but I believe that should be up to the artist and viewer! Art is experienced differently by everyone — I could stand in front of a Rothko at the Met, while you could view a Rothko in a virtual viewing room on your phone and have an equally as powerful experience. If the artist has a specific intention for how the viewer should experience their work, I believe that’s important to honor, but I don’t necessarily think there’s one way to share/experience art. That being said, I’m a huge fan of discovering art online and making plans to see it IRL after.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
This is SO hard! I think I’d go with Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Bourgeois, Hilma af Klint, Tracey Emin, and Jordan Casteel. If I could grow a big collection right now, I’d like to focus on female artists.