Abigail Ogilvy Ryan is the owner and founder of Abigail Ogilvy Gallery in Boston, MA. She opened the gallery in 2015 with the belief in supporting artists by providing opportunities that push their careers forward and inspire lifelong learning. For the past eight years Ogilvy has maintained the mission of building community and advancing leadership of women and under-represented groups by utilizing the gallery space for public and private events that promote open dialogue. “I hope to build a more equitable world by creating unseen possibilities and making new connections for my artists.” says Ogilvy. She is the Global Chapter Chair of the Association of Women Art Dealers, a member of the Boston Art Dealers Association, and a member of ArtTable. Ogilvy has two sons, two-years-old and a six-months-old, and is always looking to connect with other moms in the arts.
AF: Hi Abigail! We are so excited to chat with you. First thing’s first, we want to know more about your upbringing. Where are you from and what are the arts communities like there?
AOR: Thank you so much for inviting me to chat! I am originally from Alexandria, Virginia. I grew up in a household of educators, both of my parents were teachers turned administrators. My grandmother painted still lifes and landscapes (and she raised 9 children!), her paintings filled the walls of my home growing up. I hadn’t realized at the time how special it was to have an artist as a family member and how much that would impact me later in life. I was also fortunate to have a stellar Art History teacher in high school who made me passionate about the arts, and this is back in the day of slides on a projector!
AF: Please tell us a little more about yourself, when did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
AOR: During college I kept taking Art History courses, but it took me longer than I expected to decide to move forward as a major. I was unsure what job opportunities would come of it, but I knew I was incredibly passionate about the arts. It led me to work at two contemporary art galleries during a term abroad, and that’s when I fell in love with connecting people with the artists’ stories through exhibitions. Having parents who are in education also was an influence for me, the educational aspect of running a gallery is always what I have found the most exciting and interesting. Educating collectors about our artists, teaching artists how to begin their careers and make them lasting, mentoring interns about the art market and how they might fit in – it’s all so interesting to me.
AF: What was your first ever job? What is an important lesson from it that has carried with you?
AOR: If we’re really talking about a very first job – babysitting younger kids in my neighborhood growing up. That taught me responsibility from an early age. First “real” job was in tech in Boston after college at a company now called Wayfair (it was CSN Stores at the time). The lasting lessons for me there were to work hard, work fast, and work smart – to be successful in a dynamic work environment you often have to wear many hats and be ready for big bumps along the way.
AF: You are the founder of your eponymous gallery, Abigail Ogilvy Gallery! We would love to know more about the Gallery and how it started!
AOR: While I loved working in tech, it also wore me out. I ended up at a start up that filled up my days start to finish, but wasn’t rewarding in terms of the content and energy. A wonderful mentor of mine asked me the question that seems obvious but often isn’t asked directly – what do you actually want to do? At first I sort of laughed and replied “open a contemporary art gallery,” but she took me seriously and followed up with asking what it would take do it. Hours of art market research, networking, studio visits, and so much more ensued over the next year, and in the meantime I worked at a local hardware store and managed two restaurants to support myself. By the fall of 2015 the gallery opened with an amazing roster of artists who shared my passion for bringing something new to Boston.
AF: Abigail Ogilvy Gallery is located in Boston, MA. Why did you choose to open in Boston, and what is something you wish more people knew about the Boston arts community?
AOR: I had been living and working in Boston for around six when I decided to open the gallery here. It’s a city that thrives on education, there are so many wonderful institutions and universities. Since our programming focuses on educational events and opportunities, it felt like the perfect match. At the time I opened in 2015 there was a lot of growth happening in Boston – there is a new building going up every month (maybe even every week). Given that it’s a smaller city overall, we get to really be a part of the community here. In a larger city, a brand new gallery might get lost in the mix, but Boston is a city where you can make things happen if you work hard and collaborate with others. We love getting together with other gallerists, art writers, consultants, and friends – a simple drink together out is a fun way for us to catch up and talk about what we have going on. There is an openness and sense of support in Boston that I am not sure you can find in every other city.
AF: What does the day-to-day look like for you? What does a great work day look like?
AOR: Every day is different for us – exhibition planning, studio visits with our artists, client meetings at the gallery or their homes, hosting events, sourcing artist opportunities, attending local openings and events, packaging artworks and shipping them, social media updates – and so much more. A great day is time spent with my team and my artists – they are what make this all possible and enjoyable.
AF: Who are some emerging artists that you are excited about right now? Who should people keep an eye on?
AOR: Short answer – all of our gallery artists are incredible artists who are on the rise. The talent in the group is pretty amazing. To focus on a few that have some exciting shows right now: Katrina Sánchez is a fiber artist who currently has her first solo show on view with us, Alison Croney Moses creates wooden sculptures that will debut in her solo show in September, Lavaughan Jenkins has two solo exhibitions at institutions right now: Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and also the Addison Gallery of American Art, and then Clint Baclawski had a stunning, museum quality show with us last year and continues to create exciting new pieces.
AF: What are you most excited for this year at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery or in the art world as a whole?
AOR: We are opening a second gallery space in Los Angeles this year! Our gallery Director in Boston, Kaylee Hennessey, is moving to LA in July – and by September we will have our first show. The program in LA will be exclusively guest curators, we are excited to hear from some new voices and get to know the LA art scene.
AF: Do you have any personal goals for this year?
AOR: Finding a bit of balance in my personal life, I am a new mom to a second son just 6 months ago, and juggling it all is a challenge. I think now that we have two children and life is very busy at home it’s allowed me to step back and give myself space to make mistakes and learn from them. As long as everyone is happy and healthy (including myself!), we will all be ok. I am so grateful to the other art world moms who have reached out and offered support.
AF: As you know, Art Frankly is a community that cares about job transparency and supporting fellow art professionals. What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
AOR: Give back to your local arts community in any way you can – and that doesn’t have to mean in a financial way. Go to openings at your local museums, sign up for event listings and attend what you can, visit student shows and thesis exhibitions – I think sometimes people forget about the importance of showing up in the art world. Being there for an artist or curator who just poured an enormous amount of work into their show means so much to them. And ultimately, it will be a fun way to meet others and learn about new artists.
AF: How do you think the art world can become more transparent?
AOR: People coming together and having conversations, sharing ideas, and just getting to know each other. I think we are often isolated by our own perspectives, ie. “I am a gallerist, so that means I can’t start a conversation with an artist unless we are working together.” I love grabbing a casual coffee with someone and hearing more about them and how they got to where they are today. I just had a great meeting last week with an artist who we featured in a past show, and learned so much more about her beyond her bio/ artist statement, everyone has a lot to say but it takes listening to find that out.
AF: Abigail, thank you so much for participating in Frank Talks, it has been a delight to chat with you! To finish off, we’re curious: If you could own work by 5 different artists/craftspeople, who would be in your collection?
AOR: Shara Hughes, Shona McAndrew (a painting – I have two of her small sculptures), Mickalene Thomas, Katrina Sánchez, David Heo – but the list can go on and on!