Across her impressive career, Natalia Bradshaw has always led with knowledge, integrity and an unfailing passion for art and artists.
© Natalia Bradshaw.
From left: Reko Rennie, Janet Laurence, Natalia Bradshaw and Caroline Rothwell.
How did you get into art consultancy?
I grew up surrounded by art and connoisseurship – my mother was an artist. In the late 1970s, I completed a Bachelor in Fine Art in Canada majoring in painting and drawing. Soon however, I realised that being alone in the studio all day did not suit my temperament. Instead, I prefer to be a ‘connector’; I also liked writing. With this in mind, I pursued public relations, working early in my career as the first in-house publicist for Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. I then worked at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and later the Historic Houses Trust.
My transition into art consultancy came when a friend asked me to help her start collecting. One of the gallerists we first visited was eavesdropping on us and took me aside to say I should do ‘that' for a living. The GFC hit, but within a few years I was one of Australia’s leading art consultants, due I think, to a total passion for art and artists, an abundance of knowledge and unfailing integrity.
I think it’s critical for those seeking direction or advice for acquiring art that they engage someone who communicates well, listens to their needs and wants, and is respected by artists, galleries and dealers – that way they can reach with the best works for them.
How would you describe your current consultancy practice?
I prefer to refer to myself as an art advocate rather than an art consultant. I work to ensure that artists are fairly and robustly supported, that the highest professional standards and integrity are always maintained, and that art remains at the heart of what we do. I love enthusing people about art who haven’t had much exposure to it. It’s okay to admit that you have no clue how to acquire art and so terrific to hire a professional when needed. It’s also essential that consultants are transparent with clients regarding remuneration – making money from art should never be the sole driver. In fact, one of the few benefits of COVID-19 is that it has pulled the brakes on the grubbier side of art commodification. What can I say, I’m an idealist.
I help individual and corporate clients source work, oversee installation, deaccession their collection and provide valuations. These days, I work more in not-for-profit strategic and connector roles like Chairing the Advisory Council for UNSW’s faculty of Art & Design, serving on the board of the UNSW Galleries and as a Trustee of the Australian Museum Foundation.
Travelling to view art nationally and internationally is of course constrained due to COVID, but I am enjoying delving into books and the digital to learn more about individual artists, movements, history and so on. I am also getting a buzz from helping local artists. It's wonderful to share information with clients who are eager to learn. I also like writing and planning projects – staying nimble! People who have not been exposed to art as I have appreciate being taught about what producing a work of art entails: the concept and the making, as well as the stories that abound from art and artists.
What do you see as the future of Art Consultancy – do you have future goals?
As long as the economy stays strong enough, it will hopefully be a sound future for art consultants, artists and galleries post COVID-19. I do, however, think that it will make a huge impact on the art world for years to come – some of it negative and some of it positive. I want to continue to travel, learn and share knowledge with whoever is interested!
Tell us about a time your consulting services saved the day.
Initiating and curating Australia’s first participation in the Bienal de Cuenca (Ecuador) remains a career highlight. Artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso wasn’t able to travel with us to accompany her work in Cuenca due to ill health, but this photo (see top of article) at the opening of our historic exhibition with artists Reko Rennie, Janet Laurence and Caroline Rothwell speaks to the joy - and relief - of opening.
"I prefer to refer to myself as
an art advocate rather than an art consultant."
Unlike our creative cousins in the performing arts who have sadly been unable to stay open during COVID-19, we are fortunate that many of our galleries have remained open and that works can continue to be transported worldwide.
This museum-quality exhibition by Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan at Yavuz Gallery in Sydney (the only international gallery that has opened to-date in Australia) was a treat to visit during COVID-19.
Hadie Shadie is an internationally-renowned artist based in New York. I had the great fortune to meet her when she was in Sydney and to forge a strong friendship based on ideas, beauty and food! This photo was taken by Hadie after being her studio assistant for the day.