Buy what you love — of course it’s always great to see something you buy increase in value over time or even overnight, but one should always love what they buy because this is something you are living with and if you have other expectations you are more likely to get disappointed.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Olivia Davis.
Launched in 2018, Art of Choice is an editorial-focused initiative that seeks to democratize the way that art is examined. From classics to contemporary art, it spotlights exciting artists and their works, introducing audiences through images, interviews and insights that make art understandable and accessible to everyone.
Olivia Davis is the 27-year-old founder of Art of Choice. The L.A.-based entrepreneur grew up in Manhattan and earned her BA in Communications and Art History from Boston University and her Master’s from Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Olivia has experience working with the most globally recognized galleries, institutions, artists, and collectors across the contemporary art market. She works with both new and seasoned collectors on acquisitions and strategy with an eye towards building valuable collections. Her past experiences have allowed her to foster relationships with emerging and already established blue-chip artists, giving her access to both primary and secondary market works.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! 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?
I grew up in Manhattan, surrounded by the best museums, galleries, and artistic culture in the world, and because of this was able to immerse myself in the art world quite easily. When I began my undergraduate degree at Boston University, I was confident that I would major in business; however, I majored in communications, declaring Art History as my minor during my junior year. My minor in Art History spurred my love for the art world and is what ultimately led me to pursuing art business as a career. After completing my undergraduate degree, I applied and was accepted to the Art Business MBA program at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. While there, I continued to grow the Art of Choice Instagram account (something I had started in college as way to keep track of pictures I liked) and forged new relationships in the art world. After graduation, I worked for two galleries and an art advisor in Los Angeles before going off on my own in 2018.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Art of Choice is the first of its kind. It’s the only contemporary art advisory that delivers both a sales service around buying and selling art, as well as content to its viewers. Through the Art of Choice social channels, we provide readers with a “no bullshit approach to art” content — stemming from interviews with artists, exhibition reviews, artist spotlights, and more.
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 few years ago, I was emailing with a contact at a notable Miami-based gallery for quite a bit of time and we were planning to meet in-person during Art Basel Miami. The contact’s name was a feminine name, or so I thought when I went to the booth during our long-awaited meet up. Very confidently, I approached the booth and asked for “her” when “he” was actually the one greeting me. I soon realized that the contact’s name was a masculine French name — from then on, I have made sure to Google people prior to meeting them so I can avoid making similar cringe-worthy mistakes in the future.
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 don’t necessarily have any mentors in mind, but I most definitely look up to certain figures who have made an impression on me. One in particular is Leo Castelli — a well-known, NYC-based art dealer who had a heavy hand in shaping the world of contemporary art.
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?
I think disrupting an industry can be either good or bad — it depends what you do and how that change impacts a culture, and this is always a gamble. From my perspective, disrupting an industry can lead to positive change. For example, Art of Choice’s “no bullshit approach to art” can help younger individuals understand and interpret art more effectively, helping them narrow down their style, preferences, and favorite artists. However, older generations may not take to this approach as much, finding it difficult to relate to the language used or the content published.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Currency is connections — in this industry you make money based off your connections
Reputation is everything — it really is especially in this industry; if you have a bad reputation, a gallery won’t sell to you
Buy what you love — of course it’s always great to see something you buy increase in value over time or even overnight, but one should always love what they buy because this is something you are living with and if you have other expectations you are more likely to get disappointed
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
I recently launched a limited-edition merch line — so far we’ve had two launches: baseball hats and hoodies. I’m excited to share some new designs we’ve been working on and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about planning exclusive art dinners for young collectors in different cities across the world.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
One of the biggest challenges faced solely by women in business is that one is more likely to come across men in leadership roles vs. women. You will still encounter those who are stuck in their ways, who think women should stick with the stereotypical, dated role of being a housewife. While being a stay-at-home mom is one of the hardest jobs on the planet, why shouldn’t women be seen in roles of leadership just as much? Women in business are still somewhat of a taboo to many, which is why the more women disruptors who go against dated gender norms and pursue what the profession they want in life is, is so crucial.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
Don Thompson’s “The $12 Million Stuffed Shark” was one of the first books I read during my MBA program at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. It truly gave me a first-hand look into how the art world operates and forced me to think differently about how one should conduct themselves in the business of art.
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. :-)
While growing up in New York City, you take note of all the different neighborhoods — how they look, sound, smell, etc. NYC is an enormous, wonderful city, but there are so many neighborhoods who are neglected so much more than others. Providing less-developed, impoverished communities with a creative outlet is something I hope to be able to deliver during my career. Art is not only something to learn about — art is rooted in self-expression. Providing a community with an outlet to not only learn, but also express themselves is how I hope to contribute and, hopefully, make a difference.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” — CS Lewis.
This quote is one that I constantly turn to in my own life, professionally and personally. Thinking through the way I’ve done things and acknowledging how I could have done those things differently can be helpful and constructive, but it can also lead to spending so much time and energy harping on a decision, answer, question, etc. that cannot be taken back. We can’t travel in time, so why wonder “what if…”? Instead, this quote reminds me to focus on what I can do in the present and how those decisions will help me in the future.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!