MacK Somers ’20 Explores the New York Art World

One part of the Firelei Báez installation at James Cohan Gallery

As soon as Haverford’s exam period ended, I was packing for a summer in the Big Apple, sponsored by HCAH. By the following Tuesday, I had begun my 8-week Self-Designed Internship with Pettit Art Partners, an art advising group based in Tribeca. Apparently, the NYC art world goes on vacation in August, fleeing the sticky heat of the city and seeking a break from another busy year of art fairs and gallery shows. This meant that I had to start early in order to make the most of my time in the city. People often ask what exactly “art advising” is and what role I play in the internship, and it has taken some time for me to develop a solid answer. Essentially, art advisors connect clients—whether individuals, families, or corporations—with auction houses and galleries through which they can purchase or sell art to build a strong collection. These collections often serve as beloved possessions which can be displayed in the home, as well as financial investments which could reap rewards once a younger artist becomes more established. My advisors, Lowell and Courtney Pettit are hired as experts on the Modern and Contemporary art scene who can help clients navigate the complexities of those personal/social/financial transactions.

Lowell Pettit in awe of Abdoulaye Konate’s work on view at Blain|Southern Gallery

To keep up with this ever-changing scene, Lowell makes frequent expeditions to prominent galleries around the city and sometimes offers private tours. From helping to coordinate the tours and simply shadowing Lowell on his expeditions, I have gotten to see over fifty galleries and the artists’ work displayed there. Since he often chats with the staff, I have also met countless gallerists and assistants who often leave me star-struck. Sometimes I am sent later to pick up pieces for delivery or to gather the latest press releases and publications, offering another opportunity to connect with the gallery. Sitting in an Uber clutching a priceless canvas as we zoom across the city, I feel lucky that they trust me with such valuable cargo. So far, so good.

Recently, when the Pettits went to the art fairs in Basel, Switzerland, their trust in me was proven again. While I had been present for a number of installations in clients homes, on Monday I was left to coordinate one on my own. I found myself in the back stairway of an Upper East Side apartment building as two installers hauled a massive painting up eight flights of stairs. It turned out that the clients didn’t actually like it which meant another burdensome trip down. Luckily I was just supervising! This coming week I am taking a trip to Denver, PA to assess the condition of a piece at Morphy Auction House. These kinds of engaging experiences are just what I was hoping to find in this internship. Pettit Art Partners has offered me numerous opportunities to meet people in various positions who contribute to what Lowell calls the “ecosystem” of the art world. Of course, I am not always on the go. Other summer projects include updating the Pettit Art Partners website, managing their social media, and revising collection inventories.

Overseeing the installation of a Jeppe Hein Mirror Balloon for a client

Being in the city has also offered opportunities to see amazing museum shows including the Whitney Biennial and Guggenheim’s artist-curated exhibit, Artistic License. I have been to a number of gallery openings where I have found less wine and snacks than expected. In my free time, I spend time with friends from high school who happen to be in the city (Virginians take NYC) and college friends like Alyssa Kerper and Andrew Nguyen, both of whom have spent their fair share of time with the HCAH. I feel so lucky to have the chance to work and live here this summer and I am already looking forward to returning to visit with friends and advisors in New York while I finish my senior year at Haverford.

Written by Mack Somers ’20, history of art major

Edited by Emily Dombrovskaya ’19