A captivating presence, Brittany Sager stands out from the crowd with her unique and alluring style. She was spotted at the Armory Show where we featured her in our Voice of the People column. An accomplished art dealer to some of the leading internationally known art collectors, we had the pleasure of sitting down with her for an interview.
Starting out in New York City working for Corcoran in real estate, clients were astounded by her knowledge of art and she soon was able to pair her passions into one career, eventually segwaying into art dealing. Having studied art history in the honors program at University of Texas, her career as an art dealer grew and she began to represent leading artists like Stanley Casselman and August Francis.
Her curiosity, glowing demeanor and artistic awareness, all contribute to her success as the forefront dealer in the art world. She sheds light on her success, shares her perspective on what it takes to make it in the art world and gives us a glimpse into her fascinating personal life.
Her awareness of the art climate makes her a leading art dealer in a difficult industry,
So we met at the Armory show. What was your role there and who were you meeting?
I flew in from Dallas to come and was there all five days. As an art dealer I was meeting and reconnecting with some people I work with…regulars who either buy from me or I buy from at least a few pieces a year. I have to say, it was one of the lesser attended fairs I’ve ever been to, maybe because it was the beginning of Covid-19. People seemed pretty cavalier, no one was quite worried yet. It was definitely good to meet other art dealers and see art live before the onset of the virus.
How did you get started as an art dealer?
Brittany: I started off in real estate working in New York City for Corcoran. I was on Madison Avenue and I became very well versed in the roadmap of New York City. It was like a real life experience of Mad Men. I even brought a client on to the TV show The Million Dollar Listing.
However, it was my passion for art that fueled me, and my clients realized this. I was meeting collectors all the time who wanted to pair their condos with George Condos, and my client base started to grow as I met more and more people in the art world.
So tell me a little bit about what you do as an art dealer. What’s your business model like?
I work with a number of collectors from all over the world, from all different levels. Established collectors who have multi-million works in their collections to early stage beginning collectors. I don’t really discriminate. I think that’s why my business model has been so successful because I’m happy to help people find artwork at whatever budget they are looking for and I have not closed myself off to any segment. I’m just as happy to sell work by an emerging artist as I am a blue chip contemporary artist.
In light of Covid-19, do you think there will be a shift in the art world from gallery based to online?
My business model has always been centered without a physical space, so in a way, I was ahead of the curve. I never imagine anything like this would happen, but I believe galleries will have to shift their business model making it virtual. Even art fairs have transitioned to being online.
You have a great eye for art and many of your clients trust your intuition. Where did you develop your expertise, what’s your background?
I learned a lot about art at the University of Texas where I studied art history in the honors program. And then beyond that, I am constantly going to museums, always traveling to different cities and seeing art internationally. I could wind up in any city in the world and kind of navigate that city just by knowing what museums were there. For example, seeing Hockney at the Tate is a lot different than seeing Hockney at the Centre Pompidou. Seeing these works in different settings and understanding the nature and career of the artist allowed me to understand art in a bigger way. I was able to have an idea on how curators create these exhibitions and stage the works. Just understanding that also helps me help my collector base curate their own collection.
How would you classify what is considered good art? How would you decipher highbrow art versus low level art?
I receive a lot of requests from artists to represent their work, and the first thing I want to know is, “did this artist go to art school?” Has art been their career choice or art they just dabbling? However, not every artist can or will afford art school, and I don’t use that against them but it’s important to know because it can make them a better artist. They just have a better sense of how to use their materials and how to create a composition. They understand color theory better. So all of these things could make a better artist. But I think that’s not the only thing. I think it’s very, very important for the artist, if they’re serious, to have gallery exhibitions. So the opinions of art dealers like myself are essential
Would you say it’s the artist’s persona that makes the artwork or do you think it’s the artwork that makes the artist?
I would say the artwork makes the artist, but there are some artists that are now really into social media, and use social media to create an “image” for themselves. They even do giveaways. Mr. Brainwash is an artist who comes to mind as someone who has an “image”, but his work backs him up. He’s talented and also charismatic. I actually know him and his family personally.
Who are some artists you’ve worked with?
I’m working with this artist Augustus Francis. He’s based in Yorkshire and he does these really whimsical and amazing large scale oil and canvas compositions. Some of them are vivid colours like turquoise with bright hot pink. They’re really fun. One of my top collectors here in Houston acquired two of them. One was a diptych and the other one was just a smaller piece of paper laid on canvas.
I’m also working with this artist Stanley Casselman. He’s really well known. Jerry Saltz wrote an article about him because he won a competition on who can make the best fake Gerard Richter and Stanely won. Now Stanley is trying very hard to break away from that and I think he’s done a fabulous job doing so. I had an exhibition for him in London where I imported close to 15 works from his New York studio to London, and I staged an exhibition for him and Eaton Square. Dr David Amphion, who’s a famous art historian, came and had rave reviews. He loved everything that Stanley had created.
When did you realize that you were a “success”?
I think the gauge of your success is when the people around you think that you’re successful. After I had done more than one hundred deals and my company was already established, after I sold a George Condo, Mazzarelli and Casselman, I realized, wow, I’m doing pretty well. But it was when I went home for Thanksgiving when I realized that I was successful. I got the confirmation from my family and that was the ultimate defining moment.
Why do you like art and what do you think the purpose of art is?
It’s simply the act of creation. I was creating artwork with my niece, and it’s such an organic process. Anyone can do it. Seeing her create is so euphoric. She was scared because the paint was dripping but I told her to let it drip. The act of creation makes it beautiful. And that is the purpose of life. To create. We create with our thoughts, our minds and our energy. And if you can put on paper that creation and put it on a canvas, that is truly remarkable and sacred.