Introducing: My Resident Expert in Art, Elizabeth Sadoff
Art is an incredible vehicle to communicate our emotions without words. It’s unique and highly personal and has the power to give an individual touch to every space. The right piece of artwork can also work as a focal point and tie a room or home together, and so when I think about the design process, I generally consider curated artwork at the beginning.
Whether you’re growing an established art collection or just beginning to curate a collection of your own, I have the perfect Resident Expert to help guide you through your journey. Elizabeth Sadoff is a passionate connoisseur whose eponymous art advisory career stems from her many years of experience in the business. Elizabeth specializes in art selection and placement for interior design and architectural firms, and she has a particular interest in platforming the work of under-represented artists. Join us aboard this inspiring conversation about art acquisition and learn a bit about Elizabeth’s background. You’ll quickly learn why she loves doing what she does!
An Artist’s Start
Robin: Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for joining me as a Resident Expert.
Elizabeth: Oh it’s my pleasure, Robin.
Robin: I know that you were an artist before becoming an art advisor. Can you take us back to the beginning and tell us about your start in the arts?
Elizabeth: My interest in art goes back to my childhood. Both of my parents were involved in music and fine arts, so it sort of became a fixture of my youth. I’m very fortunate that way.
We always had chamber music in the house at least once a week, and my mother had friends who were significantly involved in the design community. One of them was John Entenza, the publisher and founder of Arts and Architecture Magazine. It was the publication that originated the case-study competition. Case-study homes are significant to LA Mid-Century design and are still looked at and revered as role models for contemporary design. All this was peripheral to my interest. Later on into adulthood, I was inspired by my mom’s best friend, a sculptor. So I moved from working with oil on canvas--which I started with as a kid--to working with clay and stone…that was my sweet spot.
Robin: Could you walk us through your journey of transitioning from an artist to an art rep?
Elizabeth: I moved to New York back in 1988. It was just for a year, supposedly. And for the first time in my life, I had the experience of working with other artists who had been entrenched in the art world for a long time. That was exactly what I had always wanted to do. I think about 2 years later, I realized it would be extremely difficult to make a living that way, but I had to figure out something stable in the art world because that was what I was best suited for. So I pivoted a little. I had been working with a company that traded murals and decorative painting in New York. It was a great time, one where you could take your portfolio from designer to designer—there was no social media back then! And we did very well. But at some point it occurred to me that I was little more than a hired brush. I was doing people’s bidding, and, eventually, I needed to move back to LA to be with my family. That’s the point where I became an art rep.
Back in the Big City
Robin: How did you see yourself back in New York, and at what point did you feel confident enough to point art aficionados in the right direction?
Elizabeth: I really started immersing myself in the business of the art world in LA. I was an art rep for a printmaking studio/gallery for a few years, and then I became the director of a co-op gallery in Santa Monica. That’s where I really learned the bulk of what I currently know in the business. A few years in I made my way back to New York to work at the David Findlay Jr. gallery. It really hit me that it’s where I wanted to be--New York that is. That was a tremendous growth spurt for me.
At the same time I began to understand that I needed experience working with more than just one gallery. With a little bit of guidance from my employer and friend in Los Angeles, I began to work with several small galleries and acquaint myself with their inventories. One particular day, an interior designer called me and asked me to come take a look at her project and said they needed something for it in terms of art, and I was there to guide her. I think it was then I understood my calling, even though it was quite a journey that got me there. To be able to point people in the right direction, you need maturity and sensibility--something that I learned through the years in the business.
Robin: I am curious about where you source your art from. Could you tell us?
Elizabeth: Well, there are a lot of different ways I go about sourcing art. Originally, it was through meeting artists. I must say that artists are quite gracious and generous in introducing their colleagues. When possible, I pay regular visits to studios and build my inventory of artists that I can partner with. For the most part, I work within specific parameters that guide my collaborations with interior designers. That often puts me on a quest. I look at small galleries, and I also look at co-op galleries.They are more often under-appreciated because of the budgets and name-recognition. I find a lot of incredible, seasoned and experienced painters who should get their due through these galleries.
Robin: You work with so many interior designers and homeowners. How do you approach their needs, and how are you drawn to a piece of artwork?
Elizabeth: I take into account what the possibilities are along with specifics I am given from the interior designer. Sometimes, interior designers want slightly different things than clients. These are always unique situations involving a bit of back and forth and compromise with the price range, scale, color, and style. Of course, I have to sell what I believe in, and that becomes the body of work that I present to the designer.
Robin: How did architecture and interior design become the forefront of your advisory?
Elizabeth: When I work with these clients, I feel like I can be a part of their decision making process, and that is what I love to do. It’s not always the case when you work with collectors. I learned that way back in Santa Monica, and it’s why I was hired at David Findlay Jr. Gallery—to expand the database and to start reaching out to interior designers and architectural firms, as well as other art advisors. It was a good place to start, and hopefully at some point I’ll be engaged with a client who wants to continue beyond the initial design that was completed under the auspices of a particular designer. But for the most part, that remains the domain where I remain the most engaged.
Robin: What different mediums of art do you work with? How does your approach differ for each of them?
Elizabeth: The assignments I take are objectively broad, so I work with whatever medium is appropriate. At the moment, I’m dealing with mostly two-dimensional works. Sometimes, if clients are drawn towards sculpture, or the designer suggested it as a great addition to their home, I work with that as well. There is no limit to the medium. Generally, though, I do not work often with digital art. I’m of course very excited about that genre, and it takes a very sophisticated buyer to understand it. But I usually work with people who are just starting out, and I’m enthusiastic about working with what they love and exploring their curiosities.
Begin your journey as a collector…
I loved hearing about Elizabeth’s background, from her early days immersed in chamber music to her vast knowledge of working with galleries, artists, and designers. How dynamic! Having expert advice always helps bring confidence into our homes and our lives. So whether you’re starting out as a collector or expanding your fabulous collection, this advice can take you to the next level. At the end of the day, understanding your own style is what matters most! Keep a lookout for my next conversation with Elizabeth, my wonderful Resident Expert on Art! I’m eager to share and discuss more about the collection processes, the current trends, and offer advice about how you can elevate your home!