Laura Day Webb has a passion for connecting philanthropy with the arts. She recently joined the team at The Immigrant Artist Biennial as Development Officer for Patron Circle and Gifts where her focus will be on expanding the biennial funding through a Patron Circle with in-person events beginning in 2022. Currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Art Business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in NYC, Laura also heads Brand & Partnerships for newcube, a tech-forward gallery platform that champions and fosters artists on the rise. Alongside newcube, Laura is the Content Manager for Friend of the Artist’s Studio Image Project, a printed volume showcasing the studio spaces of emerging artists from across the globe. In addition, Laura is an independent curator whose recent September 2021 exhibition, “The Art of Resilience” ran at NYC’s High Line Nine Gallery and featured works by eight contemporary Kenyan and British artists. The show examined the interplay between art, community, and conservation with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Northern Kenya, a non-profit UNESCO World Heritage site.
What was your first job in the Arts and what was the most useful or important thing you learned in that experience?
I initially made my foray into the art world as Co-Founder of La Doyenne, a demi-couture womenswear line exploring the convergence of art, fashion, and technology. Positioning the wearer as the final canvas, we created oil and watercolor works that we digitally manipulated and printed on fabric. This experience exposed me to all aspects of running a creative enterprise from the ground up and cemented my desire to pivot fully into a career in the art world.
What do you do now?
Perhaps because my background is a bit outside the norm, I have been fortunate enough to be involved in a variety of projects wearing different hats – which is incredibly exciting. I joined the team at The Immigrant Artist Biennial in early November, as the Development Officer for Patron Circle and Gifts focusing on expanding the biennial’s fundraising opportunities. I am also currently pursuing my Master’s degree in Art Business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, as well as heading Brand & Partnerships for newcube, a tech-forward gallery platform that champions and fosters artists on the rise. Additionally, I am the Content Manager for Friend of the Artist’s Studio Image Project showcasing emerging artists’ studio spaces globally, and an independent curator. Most recently, I curated “The Art of Resilience” in September 2021 at High Line Nine Gallery working with a group of eight contemporary Kenyan and British artists with a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the works exhibited going to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Northern Kenya.
Where are you from and what is the arts community like there?
I am originally from Dallas, Texas but have spent the majority of my adult life in NYC. Dallas is a city which has seen a tremendous upswing in patronage of the arts over the past couple of decades. In recent years, a growing number of contemporary galleries have made their way to the city, joining outstanding permanent collections at museums including the Kimbell Art Museum and the Meadows Museum, alongside the Dallas Art Fair, making Dallas a destination on the rise not only for historical but also contemporary art.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
The course of my career has been shaped more by the collective places I have visited and the people and art I have encountered along the way. My parents’ philosophy on global citizenship meant I was fortunate to be part of their travels from a young age and art was always at the forefront for them. Experiencing a diverse array of art sparked my love for it early on and before working in the space, I carved out ways to be around it as much as I could. Living with art is vital to me – whether it be in a public space, in a museum, or through an ephemeral experience.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Those contributing to the art world come from a diverse array of backgrounds and experiences. Therefore, a career history outside the space should not deter you from pursuing an opportunity in it, if it is truly your passion. Your skillset may well be a value add and applicable in ways you have not yet realized. The art world is ever evolving and we can all learn alongside it.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job?
During an install there was a tricky area that we could not reach via a ladder so I climbed up on a pipe to drape a textile. It was both a test of my athleticism and entertainment for the rest of the team. Thankfully this was more humorous than weird.
What artwork is/was in your home office?
A geometric work from 1977 by Eugenio Carmi.
What is/was your greatest WFH challenge?
Attending graduate school over Zoom made it difficult to build relationships with peers and professors virtually. I am grateful that we have been able to meet in person this fall making the experience even more meaningful.
What aspect of the art world this year is most exciting to you?
While I am thankful to live in a technologically driven era, nothing beats being able to interact in person, especially after a stint of global isolation. Having the chance to experience art up close and personal again and seeing colleagues and friends face to face is something I have no doubt we are all eager to fully embrace once more.
Have you seen any exhibitions or encountered any works of late that stood out to you?
The second half of the year has seen so much momentum in the art world. With fairs back in full swing and some outstanding works on the auction block, it feels like there is something new to take in wherever you turn. Over the summer, I came across a solo exhibition of Fede Galizia’s work at Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trentino, Italy. I found it particularly interesting because the curators chose to look beyond the still life works she is known for, to her masterful portraits and religious paintings that were collected by leading figures of her time. It was exciting to view Galizia’s art in a new light and see her getting the recognition she deserves so many centuries later.
How do you think the art world can become more transparent?
In some ways, the pandemic has necessitated transparency that might previously have been pushed to the back burner but there is still quite a way to go. More galleries are showcasing pricing online and occasionally at fairs as well. At newcube, the pricing for our works has always been clearly delineated and I hope this is a direction that picks up more broadly. Particularly for new collectors entering the market, uncertainty around what work costs can be a deterrent. As the art market is truly global with everything from viewing rooms to auctions occurring online, the guarded opacity of the past simply is not going to pass muster in the long haul.
How do you think art should be shared and/or experienced moving forward?
I think there are a myriad of ways one can share and/or experience art. I personally will always gravitate toward a physical encounter because there is nothing quite like the moment of viewing the actual work in person in all its glory. However, this is not always feasible for a host of reasons. From viewing rooms to social media, art has probably seen more digital traction in the last year than all other times combined and I think this is a great thing. In addition, there has been a rise in new experiential formats like those recently centered on Van Gogh and the Sistine Chapel. They are accessible to a wider audience in a way that feels more tangible than just viewing it on a computer screen and I am curious to see how this arena evolves.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
My taste is eclectic, so it is a daunting task to narrow it down. However, five artists it would be a dream to own are:
- Artemisia Gentileschi – her paintings are beautiful in their darkness and brutality, she truly was a baroque master.
- Nyoko Ikuta – her glass work is exquisite in the ways in which it plays with light.
- Wole Langunju – his cultural references, and incorporation of artifacts like Gelede masks to create his own unique practice of Onaism give depth and meaning to his works.
- Mary Weatherford – her practice is diverse but I am particularly drawn to her works combining abstract expressionism and color field painting through the use of neon tubes.
- Angele Etoundi Essamba – I recently came across her regal and strikingly powerful photographic depictions of African women at 1-54 in London.