This week, we interviewed Anna Helwing, who is VIP Manager of Europe & Americas and VIP Representative of Switzerland at ArtBasel, as well as being a mentor at I LIKE NETWORKING (https://ilikenetworking.uk/)
What have you been up to during lockdown?
Since Art Basel in Basel was cancelled due to Covid-19 we decided to host an Online Viewing Room in June instead. As a result, we were very busy during lockdown. As a member of the VIP Relations team I mainly worked on planning and hosting virtual VIP walk-throughs via Zoom and besides collectors I invited gallerists to join and talk about the works they exhibited in the Art Basel OVR. Although it didn’t equate an actual one-to-one, it did allow a coming together as-close-as-possible and enabled a lively exchange among like-minded people offering a little bit of Art Basel feeling afterall! Also, it gave the gallerists an opportunity to animate their online presentations and to network, something particularly important for young galleries.
Besides working on the Art Basel Online Viewing Room, I was avidly listening to webinars and online conversations, whether it was our own Conversation series or conversations hosted by The Guardian or FT. Also, I participated in various online courses and familiarised myself with new programs.
Is there anything in particular you have learned from the last few months?
The Coronavirus and the lockdown confronted us with a new reality overnight and we all had to adapt very quickly. What might have seemed impossible a few months ago, we eventually were able to master in record time. What I might have shied away from not too long ago, I tackled successfully afterall. Eventually, what I’ve learnt is, that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve so much more than you think.
How do you think the art industry will change, going forward?
The offering of online initiatives will keep growing and with it the viewing habits will change. I’m positive that collectors will feel more confident to purchase art online in the future, obviously also supported by the fact that traveling has become more cumbersome. However, I don’t think that the emotion one experiences when looking at an art work can ever be surpassed by an online presentation, but it will enhance the transactional part of an acquisition. The creative cross-pollination between the various art industry players that has started during the lock-down will hopefully remain and further facilitate exciting initiatives, whether online or in real life.
Do you have any advice that you would give to people entering the industry?
Since there’s now so much more info available on the internet than ever before study it, make yourself savvy and stay abreast of new trends and developments. Present yourself ably on social media using a clear strategy and stick to it, but always remember, passion needs to be the driving force!
Are there any art organisations that you have been particularly impressed by in the way that they have evolved and responded to the current situation?
I’m excited about Isabel Sachs’ I LIKE NETWORKING, a networking and mentoring initiative devised for women and non-binary people to tackle the lack of diversity in the creative industry and to help those who already work in the field but feel stranded. During one-on-one mentoring sessions, volunteer mentors give mentees the opportunity to develop their resumes, skills and personal brand. The program is free for mentees and the aim is to help everyone achieve their goals and create a more diverse and supportive creative workforce. I will be supporting the initiative as a volunteer mentor myself as it’s crucial – especially under the current circumstances that do not conduce to establishing contacts – to help the community to foster new meaningful relationships.