Female Disruptors: Lisa Burgess of ‘New River Fine Art’ On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

Candice Georgiadis
Jan 21, 2021 · 9 min read

Integrity, Integrity, Integrity. Numerous mentors have shared this piece of advice with me, beginning with my father, who was not an art dealer, but was the maker of many successful deals in his business career.

As part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Burgess, President New River Fine Art.

Lisa Ann Burgess, 55, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was raised in Philadelphia, PA. She attended Germantown Academy through high school and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX., where she matriculated through the Meadows School of the Arts, graduating with a degree in Communications Management. Burgess began her working career with T K Communications, her family’s broadcasting company, where she served as National Sales Manager for the company’s radio division and then Paxon Communications as National Sales Manager for three radio properties. She left the radio and advertising industry in 1997 to pursue her interest in art.

New River Fine Art opened in 1998 on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The company has at various times, operated fine art galleries in Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Naples, FL and has hosted pop-up exhibitions in Wellington and Rosemary Beach, FL in addition to exhibiting at several of the country’s most prestigious art fairs. The gallery specializes in 20th Century, Pop and Contemporary Masters as well as Emerging artists from Florida and beyond. Through her work, Burgess has established relationships with important foundations, private and corporate collections, curators, and resources around the world.

The gallery is utilized not just for commercial gain, but to serve as a cultural custodian to the community by organizing exhibitions that are free to the public and often of important historical significance. In 2018, Roberto Matta: On the Edge of a Dream contained 17 original works of art that were later included in Matta’s retrospective at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. She has published over 20 full color, fine art catalogs in conjunction with exhibitions, hosted guest lecturers and curators from around the world for educational seminars both at the gallery and in the community at large and has lectured herself on topics ranging from Art as an Investment, Printmaking Techniques Throughout History, The Legacy of Purvis Young, The Art Triumvirate (Artist, Patron & Museums) to Marcus Jansen: Examine and Report, which was presented at the Hamptons Film Festival in July, 2019.

In 2020, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis named Burgess to a four-year term on the Florida Council for Arts & Culture, enabling her to support arts and culture on a statewide level. Burgess regularly merges her passion for art with her desire to give back to the community by hosting charitable events for a variety of worthy causes including past events for The Emeril Lagasse Foundation, Children’s Home Society, The Humane Society, the Royal Dames of Cancer Research the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County, Broward Health Foundation, Symphony of the Americas, and the American Heart Association.

Lisa Burgess is married and resides in Fort Lauderdale, FL where, in her spare time, she enjoys golf, fishing, scuba diving, entertaining and traveling.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Lisa! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

After a successful career in advertising sales, I decided to pursue a lifelong interest in art combined with my knowledge of sales and opened an art gallery. What I liked most about selling advertising was developing relationships and learning about my clients’ needs. Today, while the industry is different, I still believe that relationship building is a key element to success. I work with highly creative individuals, helping to bring their work to our collectors and grow their careers. I also enjoy getting to know our collectors who are often highly successful individuals in their own right and learning their stories. The art world is a continuously evolving industry, that affords me the opportunity to continue to learn and grow.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I have brought art collections and art exhibitions to Ft. Lauderdale that are typically only presented in New York or other major metropolitan cities are known for great museums and galleries. “Roberto Matta: On the Edge of a Dream” featured over 20 works that were included in The State Hermitage Museum’s exhibition: “Roberto Matta: The Fourth Dimension.”

This month, New River Fine Art presents “Hunt Slonem: Through the Looking Glass”. This artist, renowned for his painting, is forging new creative paths utilizing glass, neon and mosaic — a great example of a creative force refusing to be stagnant. He could have partnered with any gallery or museum in his impressive roster, but chose New River Fine Art to debut these new collections.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

A first-time client bought a significant work from one of my consultants on a Friday. I stopped to introduce myself and congratulate him on his acquisition. Later that evening, I was in a neighborhood bar, unwinding from the week with friends. A man comes over and says, “Hi Lisa, can I buy you a drink?”. Not recognizing my new client (and having already had at least one drink) I replied, “Who Are You?”. When he said his name, the look of utter horror and embarrassment as I slapped my hand over my mouth in a futile attempt to stuff the words back in was apparently priceless. I very quickly apologized for my rude response and bought him a drink. We went on to become friends, do more business and laugh about the incident for many years.

Lesson learned — it’s ok to make mistakes, it’s what you do next that determines if you keep a relationship.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I had owned my gallery about 3 months when on a trip to New York, a fellow dealer introduced me to a gentleman who managed a significant Salvador Dali collection. 3 months later, this man took a chance on a fledgling dealer and curated the first Dali exhibition held at my gallery. We did business for many years to follow and before he passed, he entrusted me with the management of his collection of over 900 Dali works.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

The best example of “positive and negative” disruption is the internet and the proliferation of online art platforms. The internet has opened the art world to new collectors in outlying areas who previously had no access to major institutions or galleries and offered artists and dealers a way to present their work directly on a world stage. Certainly, online sales and auctions helped many stay in business during the government directed shutdowns during the Covid pandemic.

The negative side is the amount of incorrectly attributed art being sold to unsuspecting buyers and the sheer volume of information being thrust upon us by the day, hour, and minute. Mel Bochner captured it correctly with his textbase work Blah, Blah, Blah…. There can be too much of a good thing, especially if the information is not managed correctly.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Integrity, Integrity, Integrity. Numerous mentors have shared this piece of advice with me, beginning with my father, who was not an art dealer, but was the maker of many successful deals in his business career.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

“Hunt Slonem: Through the Looking Glass” opening January 22nd is next up. Creativity is key with our openings since Covid restrictions prevent large groups in the gallery. The exhibition is being presented both live and virtually to collectors who can’t be here to see it in person. Digital and printed catalogs have been created and we are posting videos and interviews with the artist. While utilizing new technology is important, there is no substitution for experiencing a work of art in person, so we are also going “old school”, offering clients one-on-one private viewings and taking work to their homes or offices by appointment.

Later in 2021, Burgess Modern & Contemporary will take center stage exhibiting 5 new sculptures by the internationally acclaimed artist Jedd Novatt whose work was shown in 2019 at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London.

Novatt’s Kármán Line monotypes that Burgess Modern & Contemporary commissioned last year will be featured along with Novatt’s Baltic series of Cor-ten sculptures in a solo exhibition at Perez Art Museum in Miami (PAMM) opening in October 2021.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

For years, work by female and minority artists were largely ignored by major museum collections, but that is finally changing — and its high time.

As a business owner, I’ve been fortunate not to experience gender bias. Or perhaps I’ve simply ignored it, believing that if a man or any other person wants to underestimate, overestimate or assign a set of societal expectations to me because of my gender, that’s their issue, not mine.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Making the Mummies Dance by Thomas Hoving made me want to get into the arts. He was the former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1967–1977 and successfully oversaw their ambitious expansion, turning the institution into what it is today. It’s filled with wonderful stories that give a the reader a peak behind the curtain of the making of a great museum.

More recently, I just finished Untamed by Glennon Doyle, an author who many consider a disruptor. Her empowering message to be true to oneself serves as an imperative in my life and business.

Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future by James Shapiro — Shakespeare was a master of presenting differing viewpoints in his texts and Shapiro highlights the importance of respectfully debating differing viewpoints in an effort to heal our divided nation. While Shapiro and I don’t share the same political views, I find it fascinating to speak and learn from individuals on the opposite side of any issue because we typically discover we share more in common than what we believe divides us. If our politicians could follow the same model, we may be a better, stronger, more united nation.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Expansion of funding for the arts in schools and communities at large. Art is a peaceful means of expression in our increasingly hostile and intolerant world. It can record history, challenge the status quo and provoke thoughtful discussion while adding beauty and vibrancy to a community. If more children were given paint and clay instead of violent video games, we may develop a generation that creates beauty instead of war.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized. …

“Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.” — Daniel Burnham, 1893

Today, we can add that “your daughters and granddaughters will do things that will stagger us”. I keep this quote nearby and refer to it often when planning an exhibition or setting goals. I bring beauty, culture and perhaps a piece of history to my collectors. Whether it is a public installation of a monumental sculpture or the introduction of a new artist, this quote reminds me to aim high and never be satisfied with the status quo.

How can our readers follow you online?

Websites: www.newriverfineart.com


Facebook: www.facebook.com/newriverfineart

Instagram: www.instagram.com/newriverfineart/

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/new-river-fine-art

Blog: www.newriverfineart.com/blog

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Pop Culture, Business, Tech, Wellness, & Social Impact

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Candice Georgiadis

Written by

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.