Sophie Macpherson is the founder of Sophie Macpherson Ltd, widely recognised as the leading specialist firm in art world search. Since 2002, Sophie and her team have helped galleries, art fairs, auction houses and museums across the globe to find the very best talent in the international art market. Karolina Blasiak interviewed her for Rosemont Art Advisory monthly newsletter. If you want to receive our newsletter, please contact her: email@example.com
Please share with our readers how did you start your career in recruiting and what motivated you to set up your agency ?
I started my business due to lack of advice and support available to me when I was considering my next art world career move. I was told there really wasn’t much of a career available to me, which I was astounded by as I had been running a gallery in London for some time and was really eager to advance into sales or management within the art world. I was also someone who people came to for advice; I had my ear to the ground, knew what was happening in the industry ahead of time and was able to guide some people into their new careers by discreet introductions. After doing this a few times for friends, I decided to turn it into a business and I have been recruiting for the art world since 2002.
What are the main challenges with onboarding talents in the art world?
Each organisation we work with is completely different. You might think that one auction house is similar to another at a certain level, or that the large multinational blue chip galleries are all fairly comparable in their setup, but they are not at all. Each is totally different, so bringing people in at a senior level can often times be challenging, as people bring habits and have certain expectations of how things should ‘work’. We spend a great deal of time getting to know our candidates so that we can best advise them on cultural suitability, as well as professional development. Its super important to have both sides considered thoroughly. Each gallery is like a family, each advisory looks after their collectors in a different way, every auction house requires a different approach when it comes to client development; a deep understanding of our clients businesses and offering to the market is paramount in successful recruitment.
Who are your clients? Is serving auction houses and galleries similar to serving collectors and artists for your services?
Our process is always the same; we partner absolutely with whomever we work with, be it an artist’s studio, an auction house, gallery or a large multinational art fund. We advise and guide them through the marketplace and shed light on developments in their sector, offering a unique viewpoint from this specific recruitment perspective. The advice we give is what separates us from other agencies who act solely as CV generators; we are called upon to help shape businesses expanding into new territories or to seek out that unique individual that our clients didn’t know was out there.
Who is your favourite artist and which museum show did you see recently?
I couldn’t possibly have one favourite artist! I loved getting lost in the work of William Blake at Tate Britain recently, and also loved the Fullness of Colour show at the Guggenheim in New York. As my clients vary so greatly in the works they show and deal with, I am so lucky to be constantly educated by new and old masters, not only in paintings but in ceramics, antiquities, jewellery and more.
Do you think there is a need for the private banking sector to hire in-house art specialists to advise HNWI in their art acquisition journey?
I absolutely do. Collectors are always on a journey, they wish to learn as well as to buy and invest, and this expertise cannot be generated quickly online; it must come from a source who really, truly understands the subject matter they are dealing with. These advisors share their passion, and it’s infectious. They know the inner lives of the artists they are speaking about, they appreciate the world these artists lived in and how their work affected life then now. They also have an ability to track the artists’ market, to see and understand trends and to help their employer as well as each collector advance their collections financially. Whenever we place an advisor in-house within a bank or family office, we see how enjoyable buying and investing in art becomes; it makes it fulfilling and fun for all involved.