In this week’s Frank Talk we sit down with Brad Shar. Brad is co-owner and partner in Lowy, which is America’s premier fine art services firm supporting the fine art community’s framing, conservation and collection care needs since 1907. Brad has been working alongside his father in the family run business since 1991. He joined Lowy while attending the New School, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in art history in 1996. Brad’s interests in both the arts and technology have proven to be a perfect fit for the firm, allowing him to assume many roles. In addition to managing Lowy’s art conservation and framing workshops, he consults with clients, oversees human resources, and develops and manages Lowy’s computer systems and website.
Brad also introduced LowyScan, a state-of-the-art digital imaging system used for matching paintings with appropriate frames, establishing Lowy as the first fine art services company to offer virtual framing. Brad sees himself as a bridge between the past and future, as he continues to bring cutting-edge technology to Lowy, while maintaining the uncompromising standards of old-world craftsmanship for which the firm is known. He enjoys the artistic environment at Lowy, which offers hands-on experience with world-famous artworks and the opportunity to work with a close-knit team of veteran conservators and frame makers. We are delighted to share Brad’s advice and insight into working in the art world with you here! Enjoy.
What was your first job in the Arts?
Being the son of the owner of Lowy, I came to work here for the first time when I was about 14.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
Lowy is the only full fine art services organization in town, so we’re departmentalized. At an early age, I learned the basics of frame-making, art handling and expert assembly. Skills that are useful to me to this day.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I was a visual artist in my late teenage years, and into college. Having the business in my family, it seemed logical to try and ultimately it stuck.
What do you do now?
What don’t I do? I wear a lot of hats here, I’m in charge of staffing the host of artists that make up our team, and I’m the head sales consultant servicing many clients who range from art dealers to decorators to high-net-worth private collectors.
Where are you from?
I’m a New Yorker. I was born in Riverdale and grew up in Westchester, but I started spending a lot of time in the City, where my dad lived when I was about 14. I started living in the city full-time thereafter.
What is the arts community like there?
I feel like I’ve watched the arts community change a lot since I started in the business, but I guess it’s like any other industry. New York is the financial capital of the world, and so it’s full of deal makers. It’s nice to be in a business where you look at beautiful artworks all the time, though.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
Probably, I’ve always thought that the cultural institutions New York offers provide a great advantage to those interested in the arts. I would say that the time I spent at the Met as a young person, combined with the knowledge I gained working here has given me an education practically impossible to acquire anywhere else.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Just to be passionate about it, and work hard. I think the most important part of working in any business is to be a good team player. Creating an environment where people are happy coming to work is the key to any successful business, and making clients happy.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
I mentioned earlier that the art community has changed greatly over the time I’ve worked here. Changing our business in both size and structure to meet the changing needs of our audience has been that accomplishment.
What has been a challenge for you?
Staffing. I manage a team of roughly 25 artists, so there’s a constant need to manage emotional drama among talented people.
What is something you do every day at work?
Photoshop! For a guy who has a showroom with thousands of corner sample and antique frames, I sell about 90% of my jobs through photoshop as opposed to the use of those samples.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
Make fake paintings for people. Art replicas are a huge demand in the artworld right now, and our combination of high-tech photographic equipment, and skilled art conservators allows us to create shockingly convincing replicas of paintings and work on paper.
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
A good employee is an individual who can get the job done in an efficient manner, while making others want to work with him/ her. As far as being a good boss, I like to think that I’m fair, approachable to my staff and create an environment where people want to come to work.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
It’s that delicate balance of skill and charisma, but without the charisma, it’s hard for anyone to get a job.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace?
Work hard, make your work product quality, and be happy doing what you do.
What are things you can do proactively boost your CV?
Not a question I’ve thought about that much, but I like to see diversity when I’m looking at a CV. In our organization, cross-over skills are always valuable.
Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?
Try to bring as much practical skill as you can regarding current software platforms. Be observant and resourceful.
In your experience, what are things to do and things to avoid during an interview?
From my experience, interviewing skill comes with age. The most important thing is confidence. I’ve noticed that many young people are nervous interviewers. If you know that you’re nervous, try to actively avoid physical defaults, like hand-fidgeting. Look people in the eyes when you’re talking to them.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
German expressionist nudes at the Met Breuer.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
- Mark Grotjahn
- Wayne Thiebaud
- Giuseppe Arcimboldo
- Oscar Bluemner
- George Condo