Inquisition of Heather Darcy Bhandari, artist advisor and curator
In the world of Contemporary Art, there are lots of roles to be played. The successful artists have the best job; they get to sleep in late, go to fabulous parties, get messy and drunk while they work, and the crazier they behave, the more attention they receive. A bunch of them even get to be fabulously wealthy. The collectors have the second best role since they are the rich mofos who get to live with the fantastic artworks and are remembered as the patrons and custodians of the high quality art pieces that successfully move through museums and the centuries of art history. The art consultants, dealers and auction house specialists may be the collectors’ bitches, but these folks get swept up in the wealth and glamour of the art world all the time, so even though they are glorified art mongers, their job can be pretty sweet. The curators have a decent gig; they don’t get paid much and they work like dogs, but they hang out with interesting creative people in cool studios all the time, they fly all over the world on trips paid for by governments and institutions, and everyone sucks up to them with gifts of art, meals and attention, in the hope that they’ll select particular artists for key exhibits. Though the critics and art writers play a crucial role in publicizing the careers of artists and validating the tastes of collectors, they are generally treated like shit; everyone wants to spread their words around like fertilizer so their chosen artists and collections grow but no one wants to pay for this critical service.
One key role, the artist advisor, is quite rare in the art world. Though the collectors have their consultants and advisors, the artists generally do not though they could certainly use the help. With some exceptions, most artists are poor business operators. They usually do not take business management classes during their art education, they are notoriously poor with numbers and managing their money, and their social skills often do not mesh well with the kinds of pretentious curators and high-rolling collectors they need so desparately for success.
Heather Darcy Bhandari is an example of this rare breed. Though she may have the fancy title of “Director of Artist Relations” at Mixed Greens Gallery in New York City, the role she actually plays is that of artist advisor. Heather is fully submerged in the careers of the artists in Mixed Greens’ stable, helping them with everything from introductions to important writers and curators to critiquing artists’ plans for upcoming works and exhibitions to advising them on where to find a studio and how to manage the costs that result. For the artists lucky enough to work with her, Heather is a business manager, source of information, expediter, social worker, real estate agent, supplier, psychotherapist, friend, sister and sometimes Mom.
With a Bachelors degree in Visual Arts and Cultural Anthropology from Brown College, a Masters degree in Fine Arts (Painting) from Pennsylvania State University, and over ten years experience working the shark infested Contemporary Art waters in New York City, Heather’s advice, encouragement, and sophistication is legitimate and valuable. She has not only curated over forty exhibitions and managed a roster of nearly two-dozen artists, but in 2009 she co-authored the book “ART/WORK“, published by Simon and Schuster, which gives professional development advice to artists. This original and useful work is rapidly becoming the gold standard handbook for young artists with a dream and passion. This inquisition was conducted via email in August 2009.
1. If you could be any kind of global superstar other than a visual artist, what kind would you want to be? (ie. baseball player, rock star, serial killer, politician…)
Rock star. I’ve been playing Guitar Hero and loving the feel of it.
2. Which historical epoch would you most like to have participated in? (ie. ancient Rome, revolutionary France, 1960s counterculture…)
I would like to be a time traveler. (But not the time traveler’s wife.)
3. If given a choice for your next life, do you want to be a man or a woman? ( as with all these questions, answering “why?” is optional)
4. Which 3 visual artists had the greatest influence on your career and work?
Do-Ho Suh, Bonnie Collura, and Eva Hesse.
5. Assuming cost is no obstacle, which 3 cities would you most prefer to live in?
New York City, Cape Town, London.
6. Imagine you are driving on an open, gently curving highway with a guarantee of no police, no other drivers, and perfect weather conditions. What kind of car would you want to drive and how fast would you go?
I would drive a Smart Car (with sunroof) and go 60mph.
7. Which current global calamity would you fix with one all-powerful wish? (ie. global warming, HIV/AIDS, starvation, …)
8. If you were given $250,000 to spend on a new wardrobe by a single designer/brand, which would you choose?
Can I just get $250k? I think I would feel sick if I spent that much on clothing.
9. Do you like porn?
10. Would you star in a porn film if asked? Describe the scene you’d like to appear in if you want.
No thank you.
11. Do you believe the United States of America is getting better or worse?
12. What is your favorite film of all-time?
13. What is your favorite restaurant in the world? (name the City too)
Billy Kwong in Sydney, Australia.
14. If you could live as one historical figure for one week, who would it be? (feel free to describe which week if relevant)
Neil Armstrong when he set foot on the moon.
15. What job would you least like to do for 40 hours a week until retirement?
16. What superpower would you find most useful? (flying, invisibility, indestructible… Feel free to answer why)
Flying would really help my commute. Immortality would relieve a lot of stress, but create some new stress.
17. Which adjective do you think best describes Hugh Hefner?
18. Have you ever been in a fist fight in which blood was spilled? (feel free to offer a brief description)
19. Do you get road rage?
20. Do you have any phobias? (feel free to explain which)
Shots, blood, heights (although I still want to go skydiving someday).
21. Do you think it is better to ask for permission or beg for forgiveness?
That depends on the situation and who I’m asking/begging.
22. If you were forced to spend one full year in solitary confinement in a small cell, what color would you want the walls to be?
A warm white.
23. What is the most important organ in your body?
24. Have you signed an organ donor card?
25. Do you believe in reincarnation?
26. Should people who eat fish but don’t eat meat considered vegetarians?
Sure. They might as well get credit for something.
27. Do you know anyone living today with whom you’d happily trade lives? Who?
28. Apple or PC?
29. Who is more important: Bono or Oprah?
Oprah is all-powerful.
30. Do you think it is better to be exceptionally intelligent with average charm or exceptionally charming with average intelligence?
Exceptionally intelligent with average charm. A little bit of charm goes a long way when you’re that smart.
31. If you could solve one of the great mysteries humanity has never been able to figure out, which would it be?
I’d like to know if vampires really exist and why so many people (including me) are obsessed with them.
32. If invited to travel on the next NASA space shuttle mission, would you go, knowing that statistically there is a 2.52% chance that you would die (126 missions so far, 2 disasters)?
33. What is humankind’s single best invention?
Aside from the obvious (electricity, the wheel and running water), I’d say lasers.
34. What is your favorite invention?
35. What is your favorite toy from your childhood?
Books. I was a nerd.
36. If your life story were to be told as a film, what genre would it be? (drama, documentary, love story, action film, porno, comedy, suspense thriller, adventure, fantasy, road film, …?)
Comedy. For sure.
37. Who would you most like to play the part of you if a film were to be made about your life?
38. Do you pay attention to world events? If so, which news media sources do you most trust? (up to 3 sources)
“All of them.” –Sarah Palin
NY Times, CNN, TMZ
39. What do you think about internet dating?
I’m happy I’m married.