November 9, 2015
Katharine Earnhardt's New York Art Advisory Firm, Mason Lane!
Katharine Earnhardt started a New York art advisory Firm, Mason Lane, to assist clients in finding and displaying art in their homes or offices.
by New York Spaces
NYS: You own a New York-based art advisory company called Mason Lane. What exactly does your company do for clients?
Katharine Earnhardt: Mason Lane helps clients find and display art for home or office space. We primarily source modern and contemporary art for those seeking new artwork, though we also assist clients with rehanging their existing collections and conceptualizing gallery walls of family photos or other sentimental objects.
NYS: When did Mason Lane open and what has the response been like?
Katharine Earnhardt: Mason Lane launched in the summer of 2014 and the response has been stronger than I ever expected—I have more clients, better quality clients, and more interesting projects than people generally hope for in a first year of business. Most of my first clients came from referrals on the HRP Mamas board (a downtown mother's group), which turned into more referrals and new clients...Right now I'm (not surprisingly) working with a lot of downtown moms/families, some corporations, two residential building lobbies, and with several major designers.
NYS: What kind of collectors do you cater to?
Katharine Earnhardt: I often work with what I call "entry level collectors"—people who want to start buying art but don't know where to start. I love educating them, walking them through the process, and getting them excited about interesting work. On the other side of the spectrum, I do work with several highly experienced collectors looking for a fresh perspective on how to develop their collections.
NYS: How do you help collectors invest in art? What is the process like?
Katharine Earnhardt: I am asked about investing in art all the time. Most people wanting to invest in art simply want to spend their money wisely on a quality work that has appreciation potential rather than a decorative piece. I walk them through the difference and help them evaluate "quality". There is no crystal ball, but I do my research to identify artwork that my clients will love and that has the qualities of an appreciating asset. These include being a compelling work, from a reputable source, priced appropriately, and properly exposed (or marketed) among other things.
NYS: How is Mason Lane unique?
Katharine Earnhardt: My business skills and down-to-earth mentality make Mason Lane unique. There are a lot of art specialists who are not business savvy, and there are a lot of elitists in this industry. I like to make art accessible to people and present information in an honest and comprehensive way; I find this makes my clients trust me, stay engaged, and enjoy the process of working together.
NYS: How do you choose your artists? Do you have a database of artists?
Katharine Earnhardt: When recommending artwork for clients, I look at the client needs (taste, budget, and space) and I study facts about the artwork (quality of piece, artist's reputation, seller's reputation, and value). I do have a database, and I work with galleries constantly, but I am selective about what goes into my database and with which galleries I do business. I do my diligence before recommending art to clients because I need to make sure they have full information and that I am recommending the best possible options for them.
NYS: Do you feel Mason Lane expands artists horizons, and if so, how?
Katharine Earnhardt: Mason Lane helps place artwork in client collections, which is always helpful to an artist's career, but we do not represent artists and work to build their market—many galleries do this. My job is to work independently on behalf of my clients. I pitch artwork by artists that I believe in, because I inherently can only sell what I believe in.
NYS: Why did you decide to open Mason Lane? What is your background in art?
Katharine Earnhardt: I decided to start Mason Lane when I saw a gap in the market for art advisory geared towards people other than the ultra-wealthy. By that time, I had had an adventurous and educational 10 years in the industry. My experience was broader than the typical art specialist, and I was very good at working with clients—cultivating relationships, presenting useful information, and selling. After my daughter (now two) was born, I was motivated to put all of this together and run my own business; I wanted to do what I'm passionate about, be in charge, and be an example to my daughter. It was a great leap—I love being entrepreneurial while having pockets of the day for mommy-and-me quality time.
NYS: What is one of the most successful client/ML story?
Katharine Earnhardt: One of my favorite success stories involves a client, referred to me by a designer, who initially wanted help with her current collection. Her pieces (painted by friends or bought during vacations) were not looking as good as they should. There was a mirror on a wall huge wall and a blank wall behind a chandelier. I flipped the mirror on its side and hung it behind the chandelier so it reflected the light, and so the huge wall was available for art. I re-framed some pieces to make them look more expensive, and I reinstalled everything at the right height on different walls to make the home look more coherent. We then bought an amazing Russell Tyler painting for the huge wall and some other compelling pieces. My client is the perfect combination of open-minded, engaged and opinionated, and she (and I), have really enjoyed the entire process.
NYS: Do you work with the trade?
Katharine Earnhardt: Yes, all the time. I work with a variety of trusted galleries and interior designers. I am a HUGE interior design fan, so working with designers is a dream to me—together we completely transform spaces and I learn about things outside of my academic and professional training.
NYS: How can a potential client find you?
Katharine Earnhardt: Clients mainly find me through referrals from existing clients or designers, though also through my website or various social media outlets—Instagram, Houzz, and Facebook. Here they are!
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