In every issue of Brooklyn Home, I’ll be introducing you to someone you really ought to know about. Someone who’s making a big impact on the world around you, but whom you just might not have heard of yet. Yes, through the power of my exceptional ability to sit and chat whilst drinking tea (as a Brit I was obviously born with this talent), I will introduce you to someone who’s really making waves. Right. Under. Your nose.
Lucy Rorech is someone who was on my radar long before I met her. ‘You know Lucy, don’t you?’ was a question I was asked multiple times by mutual friends. How we finally did meet is a funny story, but let’s just say it was worth the wait. I officially have a bit of a girl crush on Lucy. She’s super smart, warm, funny and always looks perfectly put together.
Like me, she’s also a British transplant, after moving to New York 20 years ago. Lucy launched The Cure8 Group in 2013 and works as an independent art curator. She not only represents a number of exciting contemporary artists but also works on behalf of clients to find or commission pieces or grow an existing art collection. She regularly holds exhibitions in the Cure8 Salon, which unlike a traditional ‘white box’ gallery, is part of her beautiful Park Slope townhouse.
So Lucy, how did a nice girl from Essex end up working as an art curator in NYC?
Well first of all I’m very happy that you’ve described me as a ‘nice’ Essex girl as we’ve had a very bad portrayal in the media! (laughs). I was really lucky growing up that my parents enjoyed travel, so as a young girl we went everywhere from Egypt to Israel to Denmark to Australia. When I was nine they brought us to New York. We were standing on Central Park West and 72nd Street (we had gone to look at the John Lennon memorial) and I remember thinking ‘I want to move here. I want to make this my home’.
Wow, at that young age you knew?
Yeah, I did. I’d lived in London for a while growing up and my parents had moved out towards the countryside, but I always enjoyed the vibrancy of London, the noise, the smells, the mix of cultures and certainly the worlds of art, fashion and design, and that’s what I felt in New York: the buzz of a city that was vital.
So how did the Cure8 Group come about?
I was introduced to an artist called Marc Lafia and I made an appointment to do a studio visit with him as I was curious to see what he was up to. The studio visit turned into four hours of non-stop talking and idea sharing and I loved what he was doing with digital collage. I also loved the fact that he was obsessed with the way that we put ourselves out there now, the way that we represent ourselves, through social media for instance, being so vastly different to how it was when we grew up and again how it will be in the next, even five years. I really feel that his work acts as a kind of time capsule and I think that that’s really important. His pieces are like a snapshot in time of the way that people communicate and interact with each other – with a computer screen or iphone as a filter, or curtain – and I feel that that’s changing so rapidly, that as I said, having someone that’s capturing that is extremely valuable.
And relevant. So, I bought a piece of his work and then people that came and visited me fell in love with the work too and started to purchase it and I realized that there was a need for someone like me to curate art for people looking to begin or grown their art collections.
So tell us a little bit about the thinking behind using your home as your gallery space.
One of the things that was really important to me as I began selling art was to be able to know the art intimately before I was able to recommend it to a client for their home. For instance, I love being able to say, ‘Well, this piece, I know it’s super busy, but trust me, it’s strong enough to work on a patterned wallpaper’. Or, ‘This piece does best in natural light as the way that the glitter or holographic paper that is set into it doesn’t show as well under artificial light as it does in natural light so hang it in a south facing room’, for example. Plus, knowing that my clients were going to purchase art that they were going to live with 24/7, I wanted to live with it 24/7 first, so that I could know the pieces really well before recommending them.
That’s really smart.
I’ll also go one step further, so that if a client wants to borrow a piece of art for a couple of weeks I’m happy to hang it in their house for them, and even move it around for them, because I do think making a purchase like this is significant and I want people to fall in love with the work and be really happy with how it looks in their home.
And I guess that when someone’s first starting an art collection and making their first purchases, it’s a really exponential learning curve for them discovering what they really do like – they’re maybe unsure at that point if they haven’t purchased art before, and I’m sure that’s part of your job, working with people when they’re beginning their collection. Can you talk a little about how you help people find their style?
Well one of the things that I specialize in is helping people formulate a strategy for collecting long-term, even if they only start with me with one piece I’d love them to have a well-informed direction and strategy that they can grow into. So I particularly encourage people to be diverse across mediums. Often I recommend that clients start with a photograph, a color photograph, not a black and white photograph, because it can help them to set a tone for either content or color which they can then follow through with bigger purchases like paintings, sculpture or other mixed media work.
And I guess because photography is a medium that we’re exposed to all the time, while someone may not be as knowledgeable about other types or styles of art, they maybe more comfortable to start with a photograph.
You’re right, we grow up with photographs in all aspects of our lives and you’ll definitely find that people are less intimidated by buying a photographic piece than they are by anything else because they have this mentality that it will ‘go’ anywhere and be able to match with anything. That’s another important aspect to my business too – helping people to integrate what they’ve already got into the collection we’re envisaging for them.
People have all sorts of art that they’re very fond of or attached to, perhaps it’s a vintage map, perhaps it’s a painting by their great aunt Louise, perhaps it’s a piece of their kid’s kindergarten art work that they’ve always loved and want to have framed on their wall. I want to integrate all of that into their collection. I don’t come along and say that everything has to be new, expensive or of a certain pedigree.
So when you start working with someone, is visiting them at home your first step in the process?
It is, because I want to get a feel for their appetite and their tolerance for different types of art. Of course I also want to see what floor space and wall space we’re working with and also I think it’s really important for me to see the furnishings and fixtures in their homes. I also like to take photographs of my client’s homes, so that when I recommend a piece to them I can digitally visualize it, so they can really see what the artwork would look like in situ.
Tell me a little about how you work with interior designers. Do you find they have a clearer brief than an individual client might?
Yes I do and it’s very helpful to have them already know what the client is going to respond to, or not, so it’s a more streamlined process. Obviously with an individual client, I’m showing them a wide breadth of work before we start to narrow it down. Also an interior designer will talk to me very frankly about the budget, whereas when working with my own clients I sometimes find that budget can be a difficult thing for some people to discuss. I really think that’s part of the problem when buying art, that everyone seems to think that you need some kind of a massive check book and some background knowledge and that’s not actually true.
Yes, that the art you like is bound to be out of your price range which is why, I think, people sometimes feel intimidated going into big galleries to enquire about prices.
That’s why I tend to have everything priced when a client comes over, because I want them to know, right there and then, whether they can afford what they like.
So what would you advice be to someone looking to start an art collection on a smaller budget?
I would recommend either buying a print – there’s a gallery in Manhattan called Two Palms, which specializes in large edition prints to make established artists’ work more accessible – or as I said, I would start with a color photograph, that will then inform other purchases as they go forward.
So where do you like to see art? Do you have any favorite galleries?
I love to visit the Whitney museum, as I find that so many of the artists that I admire and gravitate towards are the contemporary American artists that are featured there. But my favorite gallery I would have to say is called the Tomorrow Gallery, which is down on Eldridge Street, and as the name implies, it has a strong focus on emerging artists and what I particularly like about Tomorrow, is that they show work in a wide variety of media and that the work is very diverse and interesting. Part of the problem with most galleries that you’ll go into in a major city is that the rents are so high for these gallery owners that they can really only afford to show work that they know will sell and often that can be pretty tame.
The other place I really like is the Gagosian Shop, and that’s where I really like to salivate over objects. For example, they’ve got this Cindy Sherman ‘Madame de Pompadour’ tea set I’ve got my eye on (laughs), or there’s a pear of skis with a Jean Michel Basquiat print on them which are really fun.
A lot of people may not have the courage to go through with an art purchase or may question if they like something enough to hang it on their living room wall. How do you know whether or not you like something?
For me, when I stand in front of a piece of art and I want MORE of it – I either want to jump inside the painting, grab it with two hands, lick it, bite it (laughs) or otherwise just become more intimate with it – that’s how I know that this artist is working in a way that’s more than a hobby and in a way that is truly authentic.
(laughs) That’s a great answer. So what’s coming up for The Cure8 Group?
One of the most exciting things on the horizon for Cure8 is working with interior designers who specialize in the hospitality industry. So right now Cure8 pretty much only sells individual, unique pieces. Some of our photographic works are in editions of 5 or 10, but most of the pieces we sell are one-offs. So I’m excited to start working with the hospitality industry and branch off into prints. For instance, a new hotel opening in Philadelphia might have 150 rooms and want 3 pieces of photography in each, or a country club or restaurant may need a large piece for their lobby – that’s the kind of project I’m really excited about, because as much as I like selling work to individual clients for their homes, it’s also incredibly gratifying for me to see my artists’ work on display in public places.
Lucy, thank you so much for talking to me today. Before I go, I wanted to ask you one more thing. How would you finish this sentence: ‘A life without art is…..?’
Well, there’s a Picasso quote I like – ‘The purpose of art is to wash the dust of daily life off our souls’, so my answer to your question is ‘A life without art is dirty‘ (laughs).
(laughs). Brilliant! Lucy Rorech. Thank you.
You’re welcome. How did you like your cup of Rosie?
For more information about The Cure8 Group, or to work with Lucy, contact her here and mention Brooklyn Home.