With 25 years in the international art world, including almost two decades at Sotheby’s and four years as CEO of Masterpiece London, Nazy felt that art fairs (all white marquees and bright lights) weren’t doing justice to the art or creating an experience conducive to discovery. So, she started her own, Eye of the Collector - where works are shown in a grand domestic setting and art complements architecture. As art lovers and collectors, at Corinthia London we are delighted to be a hotel partner to the fair and took a little time to sit down with Nazy and find out more.
We are lucky enough to live on the coast so I often start the day with a swim in the ocean. Coming originally from a warm climate, I never thought I would enjoy British water but now I find it energising. If it’s a weekday I quickly shower, change and am on Zooms, calls and in meetings from morning until early evening. Luckily my husband Simon, who is also our Creative Director, is a good cook and we pause for an hour around 1pm and eat together, catching up on our joint projects. Natalie, our fantastic Fair Director, will usually visit once a week and we work on the upcoming fair or brainstorm new ideas. Two or three times a week, I jump onto the London train for meetings, openings and to catch up on cultural happenings.
With everything that has been happening recently in the wider world, I am very grateful for everything that we have on a daily basis. Often at weekends friends come to stay and we will wander into Folkestone along the coastal path. Folkestone has the UK’s largest collection of site-specific outdoor sculpture and we visit works on show exhibited as part of the Triennial, followed by lunch at one of the new restaurants on the beach or an old favourite, Rocksalt. In the evening, we barbecue by the ocean with friends joining us from far and wide.
For every creative and glamorous moment in the art world, there is an equivalent that is exactly the opposite. From the reality of post-Brexit shipping regulations to ever-changing health and safety legislation and data protection, the art market and art fairs are logistically complex operations.
I started my career at Sotheby’s where I arrived as an intern and ended up as Managing Director of the Impressionist and Modern Art department, Europe. Sotheby’s taught me so much and I was lucky enough to be involved in many of the ground-breaking auctions of the early 2000s. I also set up their global VIP programme, one of the first of its kind in the art world.
When I left Sotheby’s I became an art advisor working mainly with collectors looking to refine or expand their collections. Alongside this, for four years I was CEO of Masterpiece, the multi-disciplinary art fair that takes place in late spring in the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital. At Masterpiece I focused on recalibrating the line up of exhibitors and improving the quality of art on show.
I never intended to go into the art world. After finishing my degree, while applying for jobs in advertising, I took up a temporary admin job at Sotheby’s. In those days, Sotheby’s was a unique place and I found the combination of expertise, great beauty and eccentricity quite intoxicating. As I got to see and learn more about world-class art and meet people from the international art world, I became hooked. With its constant evolution, the art world can never be a boring place to be and I am constantly learning.
That’s easy. The day my daughter was born.
I had been thinking for a while about how to be more creative, personal and to use my varied experience in a wider context. We were in Venice for the opening of the Biennale, walking around historical palazzi viewing world-class modern and contemporary art. We started to ask ourselves why art fairs had to be so formulaic - white tents, booths and bright lights. Wasn’t there room for an art fair where the setting and the the curation were as creatively pleasurable as the art on show? This is what drove the creation of Eye of the Collector.
Be strong, be brave, listen and learn.
For years, everyone in the art world was highly sceptical about selling serious works online. With almost no real-life art events being staged during the pandemic, we saw how quickly things can change. When we launched the first online Eye Viewing Room in May 2020, we had enquiries from more than 90 countries and sold works in value from €1,000 to €1m. We were astounded and excited for something that would have been considered impossible just a few years ago.
Everyone is talking about NFTs (non-fungible tokens, a kind of bitcoin for art) as the next big thing - marrying the worlds of art, technology and cryptocurrency. The jury is still out about whether these are a fad or a visionary new model for art ownership. Either way they cannot be ignored.
The spa, of course. After a long day at the fair, having walked up and down stairs a hundred times, there is really no better place in London to relax and rejuvenate. I am also very partial to a glass of rosé in The Garden, a hidden gem in the middle of London.
Minjung Kim, The Street, 2019, Mixed media on mulberry Hanji paper, 98 x 138 cm. Courtesy of Patrick Heide Contemporary Art @patrickheideca
Emily Young (b.1951), Lapis Head, 2006, Lapis Lazuli, H. 30 cm, Unique. Courtesy of Willoughby Gerrish. @willoughbygerrish