I am delighted to share this lovely article that appeared in Architectural Digest this past week about my passion for working with artists and connecting them with clients. Using original art and educating clients is a cornerstone of my design aesthetic. I am so grateful I found a profession that allows me to combine all of my desired careers (artist, art history professor, curator, and designer) into one! Thank you to Katy Olson for sharing our story and to all the artists and galleries I have had the privilege to work with over the years!
Austin works with artist Charlie Havanich, pictured here, who is represented by Hidell Brooks Gallery. “I adore Charlie and I just acquired one of his works,” Austin tells AD PRO. “The image in the picture is a commission for one of my clients that bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Jackie.” / Photography: Charle Hanavich
Cathy Austin began her career not in design, but in art, working at Sotheby’s across departments including European Porcelain, American Paintings, and American Furniture. “I assisted the experts cataloguing the works for the auctions, handling archives, client contracts, condition reports, and arranging presale exhibitions. I began as an intern and archivist and also worked as an administrator,” recalls Austin. When she transitioned into interiors, Austin kept connected to the art scene, attending shows like Maison et Objet and TEFAF—but also in a more tangible way, sourcing local Southern talent for her interior-design projects.
Austin complemented her space at a recent Traditional Home show house with a portrait, left, by artist Kate Long Stevenson and a large abstract, right, by David Paul / Photography: Dustin Peck
The designer, who tells AD PRO that she has “always been an art history student at heart,” makes it a priority to educate clients. “Since art is very subjective, I encourage my clients to collect works that they respond to emotionally. Original art elevates every interior and reflects the personalities that inhabit the space. By attending art fairs at home and abroad, I seek out emerging artists to introduce to my clients. Getting to know the artists personally and learning about their process and what inspires them is very important to me to pass along that knowledge.”
An interior by Cathy Austin with artwork by Amanda Talley, above the fireplace/ Photography: Gordon Beall
As principal of Catherine M. Austin Interior Design, of Charlotte, North Carolina, one of those talents Austin has gotten to know on a deeper level is a New Orleans–based SCAD graduate named Amanda Talley, whose work she discovered in a local showroom. “I fell in love with her abstract, gestural works and designed my first living room around one of her paintings that I did not even own…knowing that one day I would add her work to my own personal collection.” The designer-artist duo’s first commission together was for a couple who were newbies to art collecting and just beginning their collection; their second commission was for Austin’s home. For each project, Austin sends Talley “inspiration images” as well as examples of her art that Austin’s clients like. Then, Talley “takes over and works her magic! I have loved watching her style evolve, yet still being able to recognize her brushstrokes knowing it is her work.”
What should designers know about sourcing art, particularly from emerging talents? In addition to the perhaps obvious exposure (“See as much as you can. Go to as many museums, galleries, auctions, and art fairs as you can to train your eye and be exposed to what is available in the marketplace”), Austin also advises having an open mind. “Do not be intimidated by price point. Even established artists can be within reach if you look at their complete body of work, including studies and works on paper. You can research artists through wonderful websites like Artsy which can also lead to discovering new artists and art galleries. It has been thrilling to watch the careers of artists I befriended years ago soar through their values increasing and being acquired by museum collections.”
Painting by Brad Thomas through SoCoGallery / Photography by Emily Followill
Another tip? Keep your eyes peeled; sometimes discoveries unfold on one’s downtime. Austin met a valuable collaborator during a volunteer commitment with the Mint Museum in Charlotte. “I was serving as the head of the Mint Museum Auxiliary and working closely with Brad Thomas, our curator of modern and contemporary art, selecting possible acquisitions for the museum’s permanent collection that our organization would underwrite. He was already an established artist, as well as art consultant and artist mentor—but his work was taking a new direction,” she explains, which “combined mixed media, collage, and his distinctive handwriting that became abstract lines when intertwined on the canvas. The words in his works examine the influence writers have had on shaping his worldview.”
The artist’s works are now found in Austin’s collections—and in her clients’. “We recently collaborated on a work for the Atlanta Southeastern Showhouse this spring. I asked him to create a work inspired by a Southern author. He used the Flannery O’Connor quote, ‘To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against truth, and not the other way around. The first product of self-knowledge is humility.’ The abstract work was the perfect finishing touch to my bedroom, that made the space more personal and provided a contemporary juxtaposition to the more traditional elements in the room.”
And for up-and-coming artists? For their part, recommends Austin, “artists can share their portfolios with designers whose work they admire and offer to lend their work for various show houses and charity events,” says Austin. “Attending events at the major design centers and other industry events is a great way to connect with designers. Every city from Atlanta to Los Angeles now seems to have its own design week full of opportunities for networking.”
It is hard to believe this is the closing weekend of the Southeastern Showhouse & Gardens presented by Atlanta Home and Lifestyles Magazine. Many thanks to all who have come to see the showhouse filled with so much amazing talent. I will be at the house tomorrow from 1-4 for the final day for anyone who wants to pop in to say hello!
I have had many inquiries about items available in our space. Showhouses provide an amazing source to get incredible high end pieces, custom furniture, art and antiques…many of which are priced well below what they would sell for on the showroom floor. So, if you see something that catches your eye, make sure to look at the price list in each room to see what is still available. You might find the perfect Mother’s Day gift!
I think original art is one of the MOST important design elements in an interior. It reveals the personality of the inhabitant, elevates the other surrounding items, and adds a magical dimension to any room. Working on the art for the Southeastern Showhouse was a dream come true. Two of my favorite artists, Brad Thomas and Alexis Walter created works specifically for my spaces and my favorite Charlotte galleries, The New Gallery of Modern Art, Hidell Brooks Gallery, and SOCO Gallery allowed me to curate my own dream installation from the artists they represent, many of whom have become friends. The majority of works are by Southern contemporary artists with a nod to my NYC days represented by Stephanie Hirsch and Scott Duce seen below. By playing with scale, unifying colors, and juxtaposing different mediums, I tried to create harmonious compositions throughout the spaces.
FEAR, LUCK, FATE, WORK, FORTUNE , 2017
To enter the world of artist Anne Lemanski is literally like falling down the rabbit hole of creativity. She is wickedly funny, wickedly smart, and wickedly talented. Her works are not only impeccably constructed with layers of various materials, but they are also layered with meaning. This brilliant combination has garnered her accolades in a plethora of solo exhibitions and private and public collections around the country. Charlotte art lovers were lucky enough to get a first look at her new work at her exhibition “Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit” at SOCO Gallery open through March 16th.
Brad Thomas is a creative force of many talents…Artist, Curator, Teacher, Mentor, and Art Advisor just to name a few. His highly anticipated exhibition at SOCO Gallery this month welcomes the North Carolina native back to Charlotte revealing a new direction in his work.
I met Brad when he was the curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Mint Museum working together on acquisitions. Through the years, Brad has become a trusted friend and colleague that I look to for art advice for clients and collectors. His layered and complex abstract works are a combination of painting, drawing, words, collage, and sculpture that slowly reveal details the more the viewer engages with the works.
With the Miami art fairs just a month away, I was delighted to see the December issue of Architectural Digest is devoted to collectors and how they live with their favorite pieces. The Brooklyn home of art world rock star KAWS artist Brian Donnelly reflects his family’s joy being surrounded by artists they admire and find inspiring. The works range from 1950-the present and there is a visual treat around every corner.
An array of artworks covers a wall in the living room. An Ettore Sottsass cabinet and a Pratt chair by Gaetano Pesce help partition the space. Wyethsofa covered in custom linen. Pillows by KAWSand Alexander Girard pillows from Maharam. Child’s chair by Gaetano Pesce. KAWS BFF plush chair by Fernando and Humberto Campana.
My sophomore year in college, I took “History of Photography” that began my love of art history. My alma after, Washington and Lee , was located in Lexington, Va which was the home of the iconic photographer Sally Mann and legendary abstract expressionist Cy Twombly. Despite the fact I was studying these great talents in class, I did not fully comprehend their brilliance as artists until decades later. Cy Twombly received his doctorate of letters with my graduating class which to this day still completely bows my mind! To be perfectly honest, I never quite understood the medium of photography as an art form until I took this class. Through the lens of an eccentric professor, I came to love photogrpahy and comprehend the nuances and difficulty involved with the medium. Capturing a moment in time artistically is truly a gift.
Perhaps it is the English major in me, but I have always been drawn to works of art that incorporate words. The use of language in art to evoke certain emotions can be incredibly powerful and subjective to the viewer. Since everyone has different feeling or connotations of words, using text forces the viewer to reflect. From the medieval illuminated manuscripts to the contemporary works of Mel Bochner and Barbara Kruger, text and art have been intertwined for centuries proving the power of language in art.
I was delighted to see the new works at The New Gallery of Modern Art of Aurora Robson that combine both abstract art with wordplay to express her viewpoint on the state of humanity and the environment today.
I was thrilled to see gallerist Marianne Boesky’s Chelsea apartment on the cover of the recent Galerie magazine. The fifth edition of the new magazine focuses on readers who have a passion for art and design curated by founder Lisa Fayne Cohen, editor at large Margaret Russell and creative director Matt Berman. Getting a glimpse into how major collectors live, how the works of art are placed, how they are juxtaposed against other works and enhanced by their surroundings has always fascinated me.