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Here at Racked, we love art for art's sake. We're at every fab opening and exhibition, and follow artists around like they're the coolest celebs in town. We're intrigued by the mystery and sheer, creative talent it takes to make the world more beautiful. But then there are folks behind the art that continue to move and shape the industry. We recently had the pleasure of talking with young mover and art world shaker, Adam Fields. He hails from a prominent Chicago art family, and now helps to run a company that will truly revolutionize the industry. He's been recognized by ArtInfo as one of their Top 30 Under 30 in the art world, and continues to garner acclaim for all that he's done and is doing for the community. Check out our in-depth Q&A with him below.
Racked Chicago: Tell us about what you do and about Artspace.
Adam Fields: Artspace is an e-commerce platform that partners with the world's best galleries, museums, artists and non-profits to make fine art more accessible.
I wear a lot of hats. I essentially manage all of our existing artist and institutional projects and relationships, along with developing and nurturing new ones. I also oversee all of our logistics and e-commerce supply chain.
Racked Chicago: Before Artspace, where were you and did you always know you wanted to work in the art world?
AF: Before Artspace, I was in Chicago briefly after college, and then moved back to NY; I was developing a platform called Art and Culture, which was a precursor to Artspace. My main motivation was that I enjoy art and I see the art world as an opportunity, as it is one of the last luxury goods to be transformed by the internet. I wouldn't want to work in or for a gallery—I'm more of an entrepreneur and a business-minded art enthusiast.
Racked Chicago: What's a day in the life like for you?
AF: In short, it's making sure things run smoothly across my segment of the business. There are highs and lows, from customer service issues to dealing with a major partnership with a museum like the Guggenheim. You can't be afraid to get your hands dirty when you're working at a startup. But that's what's fun. You really don't know what will happen next.
Racked Chicago: When did you know were bitten by the art bug?
AF: It developed over time. I always knew that I had an interest on the aesthetic side of things, but I started to understand art beyond the aesthetic--the process behind it and artists' practice, understanding that it's more than something pretty on a canvas.
Racked Chicago: Did your parents, who are prominent Chicago art collectors, have any influence on your chosen career path, and can you discuss their collection with us?
AF: They didn't directly have any influence on what I'm doing now like saying, 'you need to love art and we want you to be involved with it in some capacity!' What they did influence was my exposure to art and to the art world. They instilled a business mind and entrepreneurial spirit. It's independent of art per se, but it led me to going down that path. They're great people and really put together a great collection and I stress both of them because it's a dual, group project; it's been a great part of their marriage and relationship. They have a great cross section of contemporary art, living artists for the most part. Anyone who wants to take Contemporary Art 101 can walk through their collection to learn and get a good sense of the current landscape.
Racked Chicago: How long have you been collecting?
AF: I've only been collecting about three years. It took time to develop my own taste and aesthetic. Growing up around great art, I thought it was important to forge my own path and develop my own unique sensibility. The other reason is that it can obviously be an expensive habit, which Artspace is addressing, and you need to establish yourself personally and professionally before you can really dive in.
Racked Chicago: Please discuss YOUR personal art collection and how it differs from your parents. Who are some of your favorite artists?
AF: My "personal collection" sounds funny because I actually just started thinking of it as a collection in the past year. It took me a little while to get into it [collecting] because I wanted to forge my own way. I really only collect artists that I have known for a while because I'm familiar with them and have had the chance to watch their practice and careers develop. I was exposed to some great young artists growing up and I wanted to follow them for a while and have a personal relationship with them and the work. That makes it more meaningful in my eyes. So, my collection is mostly artists with a Chicago connection because that's where I grew up, are those who I've followed over the years. I probably have about 10 pieces--nothing too large for space and cost reasons. But the artists include Rashid Johnson, Angel Otero, Amanda Ross-Ho, William J. O'Brien, Sarah Cain, and I have an amazing Christopher Wool print that I got on Artspace. All of the artists are people with whom I've developed a direct personal relationship with and/or been following for a while, so there's a comfort level.
How does it differ from my parents? Well, we are obviously on different ends of the spectrum, but I think we've both influenced each other. We have some of the same artists in our collections, which is fun. My collection is more emerging artists and I think I've been an influence on them to get them to embrace some younger, emerging artists; some of the artists I collect, like Sarah Cain and Amanda Ross-Ho, they actually got involved with after me. I've opened their eyes to some new artists, and they, me. It goes both ways, and that dialogue, that back and forth is fun.
Racked Chicago: What's the most prized piece in your collection and will you tell us about it?
AF: The diplomatic thing to say, and it really is the truth, is that they're all great, I enjoy living with all of them and I have a unique connection to all of them. With that said, it's probably my Christopher Wool print. He's my favorite artist and one of the most important contemporary artists living today. So, having a piece by him, even if it is a print, is special. It's even more special because I got it on Artspace, so I practice what I preach.
Racked Chicago: These don't have to be one in the same, though they may be, but what piece in your collection would excite other collectors or make them green with envy?
AF: The thing that's interesting to me is that I love getting peoples' reactions when they see the art. Some people who know contemporary art will just react to the artists' name alone. You say 'I have a piece by artist x and y,' and they love it. Some are drawn in once I explain the story or process behind the piece and others see it as aesthetically pleasing. I like seeing peoples' reactions and gauging their experience.
Racked Chicago: What has been your biggest splurge item to date--art, furniture or otherwise? Can you tell us the price you paid?
AF: My biggest splurge is the definitely my art. I moved into my own place this summer, and I'm focusing on filling my place with art rather than furniture. I'd rather sit in an uncomfortable chair with minimal furniture and look at my art than sit amongst great furniture looking at blank walls. I don't talk about pricing, there's certainly a threshold I can't and won't go above, but I like to think that everything on my wall now would cost more now than when I bought it.
Racked Chicago: What do you look for when you choose a piece of art to go in your home?
AF: First and foremost I need to enjoy it and want to live with it. Other than that, the most important factor to me is being familiar with the artists' practice and furthermore, their process. Once you know the story behind the piece or how it was made, it really makes it more interesting. I'm very process-oriented, you could say.
Racked Chicago: What's the most expensive piece on Artspace right now, and is it something you'd ever consider owning yourself one day if you had the means to afford?
AF: The majority of stuff on Artspace is under $50K, but we have some six and seven figure pieces. I would like them because they're beautiful not because of how much they are. Things are expensive because of materials but also because people want them and there's a market!
Racked Chicago: Do you ever act as art advisor to folks to help them figure out their personal art style?
AF: I want people in their late 20s to 30s to know that they can get something interesting for their walls, and that they can try out contemporary art. So, I would say I act more as a conduit than an advisor, but people are always interested in what I am doing and asking questions.
Racked Chicago: For FPACs (Future Prominent Art Collectors), who are the contemporary artists that you'd recommend them look at, or what kinds of pieces would you steer them toward? How do they get started collecting or becoming a prominent figure in the art world like you, should they choose that career path?
AF: Again, art is personal and it's tough to recommend pieces or artists. I would say stay local in your community and see who's making waves and to see whom you find interesting. I grew up in Chicago and had access to a lot of Chicago artists and made a point to follow them and their careers to see if I was interested in them. Really diving into the process and the career is the best way to do it. Pick someone that's interesting and learn as much about them as you can.
As for career path, I just think as a general matter it's knowing your business better than the next person. For me, I have a knack for e-commerce and can straddle both the art side and the business side. My goal, and Artspace's goal, is to do what we are doing better than another person or entity in our arena. Whether it's going into art or finance, I want to do it better than anyone else. I don't want anyone outworking me—we're always trying to do it better [at Artspace]. For me personally, I'm always interested in people's paths to success, and wondering what they did and how they got to where they are. There's always a unique experience and unique story.