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June 18, 2024

WOMEN IN THE ARTS: Jeanne Masel, A Game Changer in the Art World

Article by newcube

6 min. read

Jeanne Masel of Art for A Change, photographed by Weston Wells

At newcube, we believe women should support women in the art world. This is why we follow the path of inspiring women in the art world, we support them and their initiatives in the best way we can and we believe that together we can make the art world a better, safer, and more connected place. Jeanne Masel is arguably one of the most inspiring women we’ve met in the New York art scene. She founded ART FOR CHANGE in 2018 as a way to merge her lifelong love for the arts and her commitment to philanthropic initiatives. She has also been collecting art for over a decade and has built meaningful relationships with a roster of emerging and established artists along the way.

ART FOR CHANGE has accomplished remarkable feats and has actively contributed to making a positive change in the art scene. Since its inception in 2018, they have worked with over 100 contemporary artists, they have supported the planting of 6,000 trees, contributing to environmental sustainability and have supported the careers of emerging artists. They have also provided artists with an incredible platform to spread awareness for issues that are important to them, fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of socially conscious art.

A few weeks ago, as New York was getting ready for a busy month of art fairs and auctions, it was our honor to chat with Jeanne. We talked about the many hats she wears, and exchanged about our mutual passion for art, artists and community.

Jeanne, it’s a pleasure to chat with you. You’re the founder of ART FOR CHANGE, a platform for discovery that offers a curated selection of museum-quality prints and original works at approachable price points and donates a portion of every purchase to relevant non-profit organizations. Can you tell us about your itinerary in the art world and the story behind the launch of ART FOR CHANGE in 2018?

Thank you for the kind words! It’s wonderful to be here and chat with you too. Art has always been my passion. My journey in the art world has been one of exploration, learning, and, most importantly, a deep appreciation for the transformative power of creativity. ART FOR CHANGE was born out of a desire to make art more accessible and meaningful for everyone. I noticed a gap between people’s love for art and their ability to engage with artwork and artists meaningfully at every level. So, in 2018, I decided to bridge that gap by creating ART FOR CHANGE.

At ART FOR CHANGE our artworks carry messages of hope, and social impact. Each work is not just a decoration, but a conversation starter, a catalyst for reflection and action. Since our launch, we’ve been overwhelmed by the support and enthusiasm from both artists, casual art lovers and true connoisseurs alike. So, in essence, my path in the art world has been one of passion, purpose, and a pursuit of using art as a catalyst for positive impact. I’m thrilled to continue this journey.

It’s wonderful watching the journey you’re on. Tell us more about some of the prints and projects you’ve been involved with since the launch in 2018.

We’ve done myriad projects! One great example was from 2022, we collaborated with the Rockaway Hotel + Spa to release a series of new prints featuring artists Erik Parker, Alissa McKendrick, Alessandro Teoldi, and Hiba Schahbaz. This collaboration supported Rising Tide Effect, an organization dedicated to providing swimming lessons, education, personal development, and safety instruction to children in the local community. A portion of the proceeds from each print sold was donated to Rising Tide Effect to support their swimming programs.

Additionally, as with all our series, artists received 50% of the net proceeds from print sales. This is really important to us and sets us apart from other arts fundraising initiatives where artists are often asked to donate work – we believe deeply in supporting artists and their work, as well as pairing the artists with causes they feel passionate about while fundraising for these organizations. When it all comes together it feels very organic and circular, which is the goal.

How do you typically select the organizations you partner with?

At ART FOR CHANGE, we carefully assess and select partner organizations for each print release based on several key factors. We prioritize organizations whose missions align closely with our values and focus areas. Additionally, we partner with organizations that demonstrate a track record of success and sustainability in addressing social, environmental, and other urgent issues. We ensure that partner organizations operate with integrity and transparency in their practices and use of funds. We also prioritize organizations that actively engage with and empower the communities they serve. Finally, we consider the thematic relevance of partner organizations to each print release, aligning the artists’ passions and their work’s message with the mission of the organization.

Through these partnerships, we amplify our collective efforts to create positive change through art. For example, during the onset of the pandemic, many people experienced food insecurity. Our project at EXPO Chicago was canceled that spring, so we pivoted to a project with City Harvest to address this urgent need. Among the organizations we have worked with are the Brooklyn Museum, The Ali Forney Center, City Harvest, Project Healthy Minds, and many more. To date, we have raised more than US$300,000 for nonprofits through these projects.

This is so wonderful and so needed. Your commitment to philanthropy and your passion for socially conscious and responsible art collecting is truly inspiring. You’re also a member of the Brooklyn Museum Board of Advisors, the Whitney Museum’s Director’s Council and the Leadership Council at Independent Curators International. You have loaned works on multiple occasions to traveling exhibitions. You are clearly dedicated to fostering the arts at all levels. Can you tell us more about your involvement and engagement both with institutions, but also with the Jeanne & Dennis Masel Foundation, and the localized communities?

My involvement with various institutions and organizations stems from my belief in the power of art to drive positive change and enrich communities. As a member of the Brooklyn Museum Board of Advisors and the Whitney Museum’s Director’s Council, I contribute to the strategic direction and initiatives of both institutions. I work closely with museum leadership to support their programming, exhibitions, and outreach efforts, with a particular focus on promoting diverse voices and socially conscious art.

Additionally, my participation in the Leadership Council at Independent Curators International allows me to champion innovative curatorial practices and foster international dialogue within the art world.
Through the Jeanne & Dennis Masel Foundation, my husband and I support the arts, education, and social causes. We provide grants and resources to organizations that align with our values, focusing on empowering underserved communities and promoting cultural exchange. This philanthropic work has been instrumental in my journey and has significantly influenced the establishment of ART FOR CHANGE.

At ART FOR CHANGE, we are dedicated to promoting socially conscious art practices and making art more accessible and impactful for all. We are also committed to engaging with localized communities through meaningful projects. One notable example is our public art exhibition in collaboration with the Prospect Park Alliance. The event, “Park of Dreams: An Inside Look,” brought together artists, the head of the Prospect Park Alliance, an assembly member, and many Brooklynites. This project exemplifies our mission to create impactful and accessible art experiences for the community.

By actively engaging with institutions, supporting emerging artists, and connecting with local communities through ART FOR CHANGE, we hope to contribute to a more vibrant, inclusive, and socially responsible art ecosystem. It’s a privilege to be able to use our resources and influence to foster positive change through the arts.

Alongside these beautiful projects, you’re also a passionate collector. As a collector, what was the first and last artwork you’ve acquired? And how do you typically select the artists you add to your personal art collection?

The most recent artwork I’ve acquired is a piece by Kate Pincus Whitney. She is an exceptionally talented artist we have worked with at ART FOR CHANGE. My collection predominantly features works by artists involved with AFC, reflecting my ability to identify and support rising stars in the art world. I take pride in cultivating these relationships, often fostering collaborations that evolve into significant projects for ART FOR CHANGE.

I typically focus on emerging talent and innovative expression. My collection is not confined to a single theme, but rather showcases a dynamic range of styles and narratives from promising artists.

And what would your dream acquisition look like?

There are several artists whose works I admire and hope to add to my collection someday. However, the thrill of discovering and supporting new talent remains unparalleled.

The art world in recent years shifted online, a shift which was accelerated with the pandemic. What are your thoughts on this shift to the digital?

Buying art online offers a wealth of opportunities. It provides unprecedented access to a global selection of artworks, allowing collectors to explore and acquire pieces from the comfort of their own homes. This accessibility is particularly valuable for those who may not have easy access to physical galleries or art events. Additionally, online platforms like newcube or ART FOR CHANGE offer a wealth of information and resources, empowering collectors to research artists, compare prices, and make informed decisions.

At ART FOR CHANGE, we recognize the importance of meeting the diverse needs of collectors. We offer the convenience of acquiring works through our online platform while also providing opportunities for in-person viewing. For those who prefer to see the prints firsthand, we showcase works at art fairs, pop-up exhibitions, and offer appointments at our studio. This hybrid approach, similarly to what you do at newcube by participating to art fairs, combines the accessibility of e-commerce with the personal touch of traditional gallery viewing, catering to a wide range of preferences.

Our online platform has enabled us to connect with collectors from all corners of the world, including South Africa, Europe, and Asia. For those who prefer the reassurance of in-person viewing, we offer flexible options and a return policy to ensure satisfaction with their acquisitions.

On a more personal level, I have experience collecting art both online and through more traditional channels. Online platforms offer convenience and a vast selection, and I also appreciate the value of viewing artworks in person whenever possible. Each method has its merits, and I believe in leveraging both to build a diverse and meaningful art collection.

At newcube, we offer a bespoke advisory service to both new and seasoned collectors and we value an experience that is enjoyable, purposeful, fair, and democratic. ART FOR CHANGE also offers an advisory service that is tailored to each individual’s needs and taste. Can you tell us more about the advisory services you offer and also whether you personally have worked with an art advisor throughout your art collection building?

Absolutely, our advisory services are also tailored to meet each client’s unique needs, tastes, and collecting goals. Similarly to newcube, we understand that collecting art is a personal journey, so we provide expert guidance and support every step of the way. Whether you’re a new collector looking to start your collection or a seasoned collector seeking to expand or refine your portfolio, just like newcube, we want to ensure a purposeful and enjoyable experience.

We work closely with collectors to understand their preferences, budget, and objectives, curating a collection that reflects their tastes and values. We provide guidance on identifying, evaluating, and acquiring artworks, leveraging their expertise and industry insights to ensure informed decision-making.

Since 2018, we have also partnered with several hospitality companies, featuring our prints in restaurants, hotels, corporate collections, and more. Our works have been featured in top publications including Vogue, Veranda, and ARTnews. Among our partner hotels and restaurants are the Rockaway Hotel + Spa and Gotham Restaurant in New York. And we also work with corporations to build custom collections. For example, we completed a project for a tech company that expanded overseas, where we sourced and curated a collection of works by artists in the London area, providing a collection of original paintings as well as a curated collection of prints.

For my personal collection building, at the beginning of my career in the art world, I sought expert guidance from art advisors. However, as I gained more experience, I transitioned to personally selecting pieces for my collection. This personal curation has allowed me to develop a deeper connection with the artworks and align them more closely with my tastes and interests.

At newcube, we work closely with many young collectors who look up to more seasoned collectors like yourself. We give them bespoke advice and guide them throughout their art collecting journey. What advice would you give a collector who’s just starting?

My advice for collectors that are starting out would be:
Define Your Taste: Take the time to explore different styles, mediums, and artists to discover what resonates with you personally. Develop a clear understanding of your preferences and interests in art. This will guide your collection and ensure that it reflects your unique taste and vision.
Educate Yourself: Learn as much as you can about art history, contemporary artists, and the art market. Visit galleries, museums, and art fairs to gain exposure to a wide range of artworks and perspectives. Educating yourself will help you make informed decisions and deepen your appreciation for the art you collect.
Start Small, Think Long-Term: Begin your collection with pieces that you genuinely love and that fit within your budget. Don’t feel pressured to acquire expensive or high-profile artworks right away. Instead, focus on building a diverse and meaningful collection over time. Be patient and strategic in your acquisitions, thinking about how each piece contributes to the overall narrative of your collection.
Network and Seek Guidance: Connect with fellow collectors, gallerists, and advisors who can offer insights and guidance. Attend art events, join collector groups, and engage with the art community both online and offline. Building relationships with knowledgeable individuals can provide valuable support and enhance your collecting experience. Our team at ART FOR CHANGE can also guide you!
Trust Your Instincts: Ultimately, collecting art is a deeply personal endeavor. Trust your instincts and intuition when making decisions about which artworks to acquire. Allow yourself to be moved by the art you encounter and collect pieces that evoke emotions, spark curiosity, and inspire you.

We couldn’t agree more! We tell our collectors that embarking on a collecting journey comes with a certain level of responsibility and accountability. We advise them the best way we can, we share with them our expert knowledge of the art world and help them gain access to the best artwork by a certain artist, but they should be aware that art collecting should remain an ethical journey. We encourage collectors to think about these ethical issues and support them in becoming agents toward a more fair and socially just art world. Throughout the years, in your personal art collecting journey as well as with ART FOR CHANGE, you’ve worked closely with artists and developed valuable relationships with them. These relationships are so valuable. Would you have any advice for up and coming artists today?

Working closely with artists of varying backgrounds has given me valuable insights. For up-and-coming artists, my top three pieces of advice would be:
Stay Authentic: Your unique voice and perspective are your greatest assets. Don’t try to mimic others or follow trends just for the sake of popularity. Stay true to yourself and your vision; authenticity resonates with audiences and sets you apart.
Embrace Persistence and Patience: Success in the art world often comes with perseverance and time. Keep creating, experimenting, and pushing boundaries. Understand that growth and recognition may not happen overnight, but every step forward counts. Be patient with yourself and your journey.
Build a Strong Network: Surround yourself with fellow artists, mentors, collectors, and industry professionals. Networking not only opens doors to opportunities but also provides support, guidance, and inspiration. Collaborate, attend exhibitions, and engage with online communities to expand your reach and learn from others.

By staying authentic, persistent, and building a strong network, up-and-coming artists can navigate the art world with confidence and resilience.

Love these! Artists need to take their time, focus on making art, and perhaps as much as they can, avoid making art that looks good on Instagram! I often say the myth of the tortured artist who stays away from society is fully obsolete. I would say artists are in a way like entrepreneurs, and as you say, they need to be persistent and patient! With the summer ahead of us, are there exciting upcoming projects you can share with us?

Yes! We are currently collaborating with artists Alannah Farrell, Lucia Hierro, and TM Davy to create a series of limited edition prints that will benefit the Ali Forney Center, dedicated to safeguarding LGBTQIA+ youth from homelessness while providing them with the resources essential for safety, autonomy, and prosperity. For later in the Summer, we are partnering with When We All Vote and former first lady Michelle Obama for the release of a new series of limited edition prints that will benefit as part of a bigger key initiative Within Civic Nation to increase voter participation by closing the race and age gap in elections.

This is all such valuable impact in the art world. And it’s with the artists, collectors like yourself, curators, institutions and platforms like newcube and ART FOR CHANGE that this impact can last. On behalf of the art community, we want to thank you for making a valuable and long lasting change! Are there any further accomplishments or achievements you’ve had personally or professionally in the art world that you wish to share with us and our readers today?

With nearly a decade of experience as an art advisor, I’ve had the privilege of guiding collectors in building meaningful art collections that resonate with their values and aspirations. Of course, my proudest achievement is founding ART FOR CHANGE, a platform dedicated to promoting socially conscious art practices and making art more accessible and impactful for all.

Thank you so much for your valuable time, Jeanne. It’s been a pleasure and an inspiration to chat with you and to learn more about everything ART FOR CHANGE has accomplished since its inception in 2018, most importantly, the lasting impact it has had on various communities.

Jeanne Masel of Art for A Change, photographed by Weston Wells

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