Curator and art world influencer Beckie Warren of Girl Sees Art has been making waves as a trendsetter in recognizing and promoting diversity in contemporary art. From her various art world endeavors, she frequently presents her unique point of view on art panels and lectures and through exhibitions she has curated in New York City. We met with Warren to learn more about her vision in promoting a wide range of contemporary artists both in the NYC art world and beyond.
AL: What was your focus in terms of content and strategy when you first started Girl Sees Art? How has this focus changed/evolved for you over time?
Beckie Warren: The Girl Sees Art blog started as purely a passion project born out of my desire to share all the great art I was seeing at Art Basel 2016. I was in my first year of graduate school at the Fashion Institute of Technology and my professor (and concurrent Director of PULSE Art Fair), Helen Toomer, invited me to Miami to help out with the fair. My mom and I made the trip together and experienced Art Basel Miami Beach for the first time. We saw every fair we could fit into the trip and even bought a few pieces for our personal collection.
I was already very active on social media (Facebook and Instagram mostly) since I am originally from Kansas, and it’s always been a great way for my family and friends back home to stay connected to my adventures in NYC. At Art Basel, I was posting a ton of pictures of all the art I was seeing and at some point my best friend messaged me that all she was seeing on my social media account was art! For me the solution was not to stop posting photos of the art, it was to create an anonymous Instagram account for the sole purpose of doing just that. To my great surprise, people started following this anonymous account, encouraging others to follow me, commenting regularly on my posts, and inviting me to art openings, private previews, and studio visits with artists.
I have also spoken to MFA graduate students at the Fashion Institute of Technology, The Sotheby’s Institute, and the National Academy of the Arts on social media in the art world. Things really came full circle for me this past December when I was asked to speak on a panel at Art Basel discussing art in the Instagram age. I love exposing unknown, young artists to my numerous followers.
AL: How do you want Girl Sees Art to influence the art market moving forward? What results do you hope to see from the Girl Sees Art platform in terms of advocating for contemporary art and artists?
Beckie Warren: Thank you for asking this question! I’d love for people to know that you don’t need to go to The Met or MOMA to experience great art. The Lower East Side has literally hundreds of galleries that put on wonderful shows, the Bushwick art scene in Brooklyn is booming with young fresh talent, and if you don’t happen to live in NYC: great! Simply scroll through the #contemporaryart hashtag on Instagram to see what’s being created around the world every minute. Instagram is the best thing to happen to artists since the “invention” of the gallery. Literally anyone who has a creative practice can share their best work with the click of a button – for free. I plan to continue to feature young emerging artists whose work speaks to me on a personal level.
AL: Tell us about your Fall 2017 exhibit, Uncommon Beauty, on the Lower East Side of New York. How did you choose the artists involved and can you explain why its important to you that female artists be included in the show?
Beckie Warren: Uncommon Beauty was a dream come true for me, and it was my curatorial debut. I wanted to get into the curating ever since I graduated from FIT. My father is an artist, my mother is a lawyer. I believe I have been blessed with the unique ability to ‘translate’ between the business side of the art world and the artists with whom I choose to work. .
I wanted to showcase beauty in a way that hadn’t been done before, and I did this by selecting one artist in every category of art that I could imagine. The show included street art, collage, abstract painting, figurative painting, conceptual art, makeup art, video art, performance art, sculpture, and photography.
I felt I owed so much of my art world success to Instagram, I wanted to include an artist I had never met in person: someone I knew only through Instagram in the group show. This person ended up being Philadelphia-based photographer Jess Gamble. It was a big risk, but it was important for me stress that people realize I don’t just look to NYC to find my artists. I find lots of people I’d love to show through Instagram itself!
AL: What have you learned from the artists you’ve worked with and can you name a few artists who have allowed you new insights into the art world as you’ve engaged with their practice?
Beckie Warren: I have met so many artists through the blog! It’s reached the point where people are beginning to recognize me at openings and art fairs, and everyone wants me to critique their work (which I do, often, for free).
One artist in particular that changed my perspective on life in a significant way was Erica Prince. Erica participated in Uncommon Beauty by performing her “Transformational Makeovers” to the public. These makeovers aren’t about beauty, but discovering an alternate identity that maybe even the subject themselves didn’t know existed inside of them. The ‘client’ would come into the gallery, Erica would sit them in her salon chair, and give them a personality assessment of sorts to fill out. Using that information, she “transformed” her subjects without letting them watch the changes.
The reactions at “the reveal” were amazing: she transformed [an 11-year-old girl] into a Unicorn Princess by giving her a pink wig, adorning her face with glitter and jewels. I have never seen that kind of joy on a child’s face. Then she made a gender transformation for a male friend of mine and when he saw himself as a woman for the first time, tears filled his eyes. He confessed that, for the first time in his life, he felt permission to feel beautiful. I had expected her makeovers to be fun and playful, but so much depth and emotion came out in those “grand reveal” moments when the curtain was dropped and the clients saw themselves in the mirror. It was amazing how quickly their language, mannerisms, and behavior changed when their exterior image was altered.
AL: What content does Girl Sees Art see a great response from on social media channels such as Instagram?
Beckie Warren: Photos with people in them do much “better” (more likes, more comments) than pictures of just the art. It isn’t that the art is bad or uninteresting on its own, but so often when I’m in the photo I provide scale to large works, and I think that people can imagine themselves standing in my shoes when I’m in the photo. I purposely don’t show my face in the photos, so really, it could be anyone standing in front of the work! It’s not about me, it’s never been about me. It’s about the art, and I think people can sense that authenticity in my words and my photos.
AL: What would you suggest to artists looking to increase their audiences across social media platforms? What should they do to create wider awareness around their work?
Beckie Warren: The most common advice I offer to my artist friends looking to create an audience for their work on Instagram is to separate their personal life from their professional life. If you want to post a painting you just completed one day and photo of your cat the next day and a photo of the burger you ate for lunch the day after that, great, but your work is not going to get the respect or attention it deserves with all the other “fluff” mixed in. I often recommend that artists have two Instagram accounts: one for photos of their cats and that awesome sushi they ate last week, and one strictly for their art.
For the first time in history, artists have a free visual platform to showcase the best of their best work to the entire world. For them not to use it as a tool to build awareness for their craft is a huge missed opportunity in my opinion.
AL: What types of projects are you looking forward to pursuing next and what holds the greatest promise for you as a curator/ influencer?
Beckie Warren: I am happy to announce I will be curating a solo show of fashion-inspired collage work by artist Karen Fisher, another artist I met through Instagram, during Fashion Week 2018 in SoHo. The show is called Paper Dolls and will run September 6 through September 16 at 208 Bowery. The show will feature 365 runway-inspired collage pieces, and we plan to host a live fashion show in the space.
You are the first to know this, but my financial partner and I have officially established a business for the purpose of selling art online and at art fairs around the globe. The online gallery is called Uncommon Beauty Partners and will be selling works from artists from all disciplines from around the world!
To learn more about Beckie Warren, check out Girl Sees Art.