Frank Talks

Stephanie Manasseh – Curator & Founder, Berkshire House

Photo by Wilhelm Westergren
Photo by Wilhelm Westergren

Stephanie Manasseh (b. 1974 Montreal, Canada) graduated from McGill University in Montreal and went on to study at Sotheby’s Institute and Goldsmiths. She is a quadrilingual entrepreneur in the arts and a consultant in the arts. Stephanie founded the Accessible Art Fair (ACAF), which offers unaffiliated artists an opportunity to network and exhibit their work in prestigious environments and works with a jury comprising the leaders in the art world to help select the artists of the highest caliber. In the corporate sector, she was responsible for developing and implementing the Art & Design Sessions for BMW in Belgium and has featured several prominent artists. Her expertise in the art world has brought her ongoing professional partnerships with international brands such as American Express and The New York Times. Launching SM Art Advisory over 10 years ago, Stephanie offers her expertise to clients looking for art to suit their commercial or private properties. 

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

When I started Accessible Art Fair 16 years ago, I ran it on a shoestring budget. I quickly realized that network building is the most important thing in the art world. Whether it be artists, sponsors, press, without a solid network, it is hard to get anywhere.

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 am originally from Montreal, Canada and have been living in Europe for the last 25 years. My mother is an artist and my dad worked in fashion, so I grew up in a very creative environment which led me to have a career in the arts.

What have been the most rewarding and challenging aspects of founding Berkshire House over the last couple years? 

This project is totally from the heart. Jonathan and I have been working together for 5 years and recently became a couple and this is a project that came to life from our passion for bringing people together in this home we share. We love hosting events here and sharing it with other likeminded people. The only challenge we faced was not being able to open it up sooner because of COVID.

You recently curated a Sol LeWitt show at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, can you tell us more about this project? 

This project is one of the most rewarding projects in the course of my career. Because of the proximity of Berkshire House to MassMoca, which houses the largest collection of Wall Drawings by LeWitt, I managed to visit the museum many times. I was lucky enough to meet Carol LeWitt who supported my project in Belgium completely. Curating this show was an honour and a privilege and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to bring this show to my host country, Belgium. Visitor numbers have never been so high for any other show at the Jewish Museum and that alone makes me very happy. Thanks to this contact with the family we have placed a wall drawing by LeWitt at Berkshire House! It has been a wonderful connection through and through.

In addition to being a curator, you have founded the advising firm SM Art Advisory. What drew you to that sector of the art world? 

Founding SM Art Advisory was a natural progression after the art fair. I have all the contacts with the artists and the buyers know that I can bring them quality works at a budget they can handle. Aside from art advisory, I also produce art events all over the world. Building my network has been instrumental in making this happen.

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

If you are going to do it, you need patience and a solid network!

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

I am most excited to see the emergence of all the artwork produced over lockdown and I am excited to discover new artists.

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

It is the only way forward. The art world is still the Wild West without any clear standards. The only thing I can do is offer my own full transparency when it comes to my own dealings (and hope others will do the same). 

What is the best exhibition you have seen recently? 

Matisse at MOMA

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

Chloe Wise, Kennedy Yanko, Refik Anadol, Richard Serra, Marina Abramovic.

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