Jaunting between New York and London to check out the latest gallery openings and up-and-coming artists is all in a day's work for Legacy Russell, the UK gallery relations lead at —an e-commerce site which aims to make art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.
Russell, recently named one of the by Business Insider, has produced programs for three major New York museums (the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art), is on track to publish her first book with Verso Books in 2017, and is deeply concerned with how we consume art in the digital age. How do you tell what's of worth when there are millions of options? Russell has a few ideas.
Harper's BAZAAR: When buying art digitally, what should a collector look for? Are there any online scams to avoid or any certifications to ask for?
Legacy Russell: Collectors should ask to get on the phone with the gallery, and, if they can, to visit the work in person. Any legitimate gallery will get on the phone, and share with the collector as much information as possible. With a platform like Artsy, we aim to facilitate introductions between collectors and galleries—while many of these conversations begin online, they often deepen into offline relationships. Young collectors should know that it is okay to ask questions, to set boundaries (regarding budget), and to take a minute to think; they should also know to slow their roll with asking for super high discounts, as that can sometimes come out of the artist's pocket. If you want something for free, go make it yourself.
HB: In your experience, what might be a good predictor of an artist's success?
LR: A successful artist knows how to advocate for themselves, but also for other artists. A successful artist aims to create opportunities for themselves, in addition to their peers, acknowledging that being creative is in part a pledge to make to a wider community. A successful artist understands that it is as much about the talent, as it is about the hustle. A successful artist doesn't shy away from working to understand—and then defy—the art market.
HB: Other than the way a piece looks or makes a viewer feel, what should collectors take note of with artists? Are there certain schools, awards, residencies, galleries that are better than others?
LR: I often encourage younger collectors that I work with to roll with these questions: "Who is the artist?", "Why does this work matter?", "Where did this work come from—and where is it going?", "Has this artist ever gone to auction?", "Where else can this artist's work be found?" and, "What does the price say about the work?" If you can't figure out how to answer these questions, take pause and evaluate what you're really aiming for. Ultimately the thing that should rule above all else, though, is whether or not you're in love with the work.
HB: Are there any up-and-coming artists or galleries or curators that you would mention? Why do you think they're worthy?
LR: Imran Perretta and Taylor Le Melle's collaboration is pretty grand—I think they have a show on at right now in London. As for up-and-coming artists—, , , , , and keep shining. These are artists that are bringing important worldviews to the table, and with sharp execution. Now pay attention!
HB: What are the best galleries to look at first? Which ones are good, but might have pieces at a lower price point?
LR: For emerging collectors who want to really begin to get a sense of the art market and develop a language surrounding the major players within it—but may not be ready to drop six-figures right off the bat—I highly recommend getting in on some editions and smaller-scale works, like prints. This is a great way to familiarise oneself with inspiring makers, to hone one's sense of taste, and to meet some cool people. Some of my favorites: , , and . I'm also really into the editions programs of , , and , if you're looking to explore some institutions.
HB: You're currently living in London. What's great about the art scene there? Any favorite galleries?
LR: I'm an East Village girl through and through, so New York City will always be where my roots are. That said, I go between London and New York throughout the year, as I work on projects in both spaces. In London, the art scene is filled with cross-collaborations and performative experimentation. It's an absolutely massive city and there is a lot to see, often way more than what a single person can take on in a day. In New York in one night you can go to 10 shows, and then go for dinner after. In London it's not like that, so things are a bit slower-paced, and a bit more deliberate. Londoners don't just stumble into a gallery show, they often travel for it, and so the act of stepping out in that way becomes like a mini-pilgrimage, where people really set their eye on what they want to participate in, and gear up toward it.
Beyond this, wonderful contemporary institutions in London like the ICA or take a lot of time to invest in artists on the rise, in addition to those luminaries that have already "arrived." New York has become a tricky site for creativity, as it has such a mystique surrounding it, historically being the place to be an artist, but the avant-garde there is relatively non-existent now. New York is hands down one of the most inspiring cities to be in, but it has become a site where young artists really struggle, as socio-economically it is disparate and as a result, there isn't much wiggle room provided to go through various rotations in career, to, like, get weird, you know? New York's gotten slightly too serious for itself, which impedes an artist's ability to fully engage with their brilliance. Galleries I'm really into include , as they've shown some of my favorite artists—, , and . Beyond that, I love , , , , , , ...I could keep going, but those are some of my regular haunts.