This month we have been talking to Matt Carey-Williams, who has recently joined Blain|Southern as a Director.
Where do you work ? Blain|Southern in London
What is your job title? Director
What time did you wake up ? What are you usual working hours? What time I wake up is governed by two things. My degree of jet-lag; I am never not jet-lagged given the amount I travel. And how much wine I drank the night before. Minimal jet-lag with no wine intake will see me wake up around 7am. That’s when I usually make my Asia calls, from home. I am a Director of a contemporary art gallery; there is no such thing as usual working hours for me or any other of my peers.
What are your key tasks ? Working with our artists to realise their artistic ambitions. Working with our collectors to satisfy their collecting dreams. Marrying those two. My role is now a demanding but exhilarating tapestry of sales, client development, artist management and mentorship.
What was your career path to this role ? I started out at Sotheby’s where I learned how to handle a work of art and to market and sell it. Auction houses are very client-driven, transactional spaces and those formative experiences at the beginning of my career have stayed with me. I have spent half my career at auction houses and the other half at galleries. Galleries taught me how to explore art in depth; not just skim the surface of meaning that artworks provide. The gallery world is equally transactional but in a different way. Most galleries feel an obligation to their artists – so sales is just a part of the gallery/artist relationship. Selling is a more measured experience at a gallery; gallerists ‘place’ work with their artist very much at the forefront of that sale. They don’t sell to just anyone with the biggest wallets.
What are the best and worst things about your job ? Spending time with artists is a privilege and a treat for the soul. Making sure you have a proper work/life balance is important. Yes, it is wonderful to be with artists and clients and fly all over the world doing that but sometimes, just sometimes, you need to flop on the couch with your partner and watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Balance is important in this industry. It is your job to maintain that.
What careers advice would you give to your 18 year old self with the benefit of hindsight? At 18 I’d tell myself to work my balls off at university to get the best possible degree and to learn another language well enough to engage in business when speaking it. To make sure that if you plan on working in the art world that the art is the beginning, middle and end of your career narrative. Collectors speak to you about art; you should do the same with them. Money, estimates, guarantees, prices, discounts – these are all bywords. The headline is art and artists. Your business is their passion so be passionate about your business but, above all else, make it your business to feed their passion.
Have you had a secret job that is not on your CV ? I was once a go-go dancer at a gay nightclub in Walsall called Jocks. That’s a lie, sadly, but I’m going to add it to my CV right now.