Frank Talks

Jenn Singer – Founder & Director of Jenn Singer Gallery

Jenn Singer - Founder & Director of Jenn Singer Gallery
Jenn Singer - Founder & Director of Jenn Singer Gallery

Jenn Singer opened the doors of her jewel box gallery in New York City’s historic Gramercy Park neighborhood in 2015. The gallery has since grown to an expanded, international, exclusively online presence and proudly represents a diverse, international program of contemporary artists. 

Jenn Singer’s artists & exhibitions have been featured in Wallpaper*, Cultured Magazine, Cosmopolitan, VICE – The Creators Project, The Huffington Post, Glamour Spain and Hi-Fructose Magazine, among others. Her artist’s work is held in international private and public collections. 

Jenn is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and currently lives in the UK with her husband, toddler and two never not hungry jackapoo pups. 

What was the most important thing you learned at your first job in the Arts?

My first paid job in the Arts in general was many (MANY!) years ago – I was in a Safeway commercial in the 1980s! The most important lesson (and pretty much the only thing I remember from that first work experience was craft services. Free food!) I went on to become a performing artist through my childhood, teens, 20s and early 30s.

When I found myself working in an art gallery in my 20s, almost by accident, I felt at home immediately. My first sale of a painting, that first day on the job, spurred the question ‘but how much does the artist make’? 

This question was important for me to ask, because in my experience as a dancer in NYC, the path to making a real living from one’s art can be an expensive and tiresome struggle.

The answer I received was music to my ears ‘the Artist will make 50%’. I was hooked. That was a great payday for them, and I learned this particular artist’s work sold well. This artist made a living from doing what they loved the most, and from then on that was my “why”. 

The most important thing I learned on that first day of work in a gallery was my ‘why’. I sell art so that artists can get paid doing what they love. 

Where are you from and what is the arts community like there? How has your upbringing shaped what you do in the arts today?

I was born and raised in Fort Worth, TX , a much smaller city back then than it is today. I saw Annie at Casa Manana’s amazing theatre in the round and Fort Worth Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the old Tarrant County Convention Center, and was immediately drawn into the performing arts. 

We had amazing museums too – the Kimbell was and still is a favorite, and I got to perform there with Fort Worth School of Ballet when I was a little girl. 

I was raised by a single mother and my grandparents, but was always able to go to excellent schools (mostly on scholarships) with well-funded arts education programs. I have very clear memories of learning about Van Gogh, Monet and Seurat in my first art class in first grade and my favorite class in high school was Art History. I didn’t need to come from a wealthy, collecting family to end up opening a gallery. It was my exposure to the arts from a very young age that helped shape me and that’s led me down the path I’m still on today. 

You worked at several galleries throughout your career, what prompted the decision to launch your own?

Like most great stories, it allll started at the hair salon. (Shout out to Joshua Barbieri on Irving Place!) Josh was cutting my hair and I was sitting there thinking about the papered-up windows in the shop next door. I asked him what the deal with that space was and he said “oh they’re turning it into a storefront – what? Are you gonna open up an art gallery or somethin”? I couldn’t believe he said that out loud. But then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. 

A month or two later I worked up the courage to secure the space and then worked my tail off putting together a roster of artists (mostly women!), a website, and an exhibition schedule. Suddenly I had a gallery. The night before opening I was exhausted from months of planning, a long installation day and last minute prep, and all I could think of whilst heading back to Brooklyn on the train was running away. I was terrified. I didn’t even know about imposter syndrome back then, but I had a bad case of it. But I did it and I couldn’t be more grateful and am so proud of myself for giving it a shot and sticking with it. 

You had already been working largely in a digital capacity pre-pandemic, how did COVID-19 change your operations? 

Yes! I was seeing and feeling the shifts in the art world over the last 5 – 10 years. So many galleries were closing when my short-term lease was up. I was making sales via email and phone, so I took my time to look for new space. I ended up finding a British husband instead! I moved to the UK and while settling in, decided to go against the art world grain and add an ecommerce element to my website. I was 6 months pregnant when it launched in February 2020 and started making online sales right away. A month later we went into lockdown in the UK. 

I was pandemic ready, thankfully. It was quiet at first when the whole world was freaking out and buying toilet paper. But, it didn’t take too long for the sales to start coming back. Just in time to give birth! It’s been a busy past couple of years…

What is something you do every day as the Founder & Director of Jenn Singer Gallery?

I’m going to lie and say I get up at 5:30am for a 5-mile run or an hour of yoga. Hell, why not both?! What I really do instead is have breakfast with my family and then get to my desk and make it happen. Every. Damn. Day. I do try to fit in a bit of yoga each day and some wine for balance. 

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

The landscape is changing. Don’t take it yourself too seriously and be open to new ways of operating within the art world. 

What are you most excited for this year at your company or in the art world as a whole?

I’m feeling really excited by the changes to the status quo in the art world and the digital shift. This year we’re adding artists, restructuring & growing our team and have online exhibitions planned for Paul Edmondson and Anne Austin Pearce. Stay tuned! 

How do you think the art world can become more transparent?

By shifting its mindset. 

 

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