In The Magazine

The Art Of Curating

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Walking into the home of Roya Sachs in a light, airy loft downtown, you are immediately overwhelmed with beauty. The woman herself is captivating—with smooth olive skin, electric green eyes and enviably shiny hair—but she also, clearly, has an impeccable eye. Her walls are covered in eclectic artwork and objects that could only have been gathered and placed by someone with her own distinct taste. Art has always been an integral part of Roya Sachs’ upbringing, so it comes as no surprise that her affinity for the category goes well beyond her own walls: It’s in her blood. She is a granddaughter of Gunter Sachs, a famous photographer, filmmaker and art collector, and the daughter of Rolf and Maryam Sachs, respectively a renowned artist and furniture designer who does museum and gallery shows, and an established author who has written novels, research and art books. Sachs explains that art was seamlessly integrated into her life from a young age: “It’s second nature to me,” she says of her deep-rooted appreciation and knowledge of the arts, even if there was the occasional sacrifice for the sake of aesthetics: “I grew up in the most uncomfortable living room in the world,” Sachs says. “My parents collect chairs; there were always these chairs in the living room made out of cardboard and metal. That was something of which I was always aware.”

Working separately and together, her parents collaborated on the project called The Wild Empire, where they installed a camera and took a photo of a mountain landscape in Bavaria every 10 minutes and 31 seconds throughout 2004. From the 50,000 photos, they curated an exhibit and published a book documenting the detailed fluctuations of nature over the course of a year. Their lifestyle and dedication to the arts instilled an appreciation for creative process in their children from an early age Roya, born in Munich and raised in London, gets more than her artistic tendencies from her parents: Her attachment to multiple cultures begins with the fact that her mother was born in Iran. “I do feel very Persian, which I love because we grew up celebrating the Persian New Year and eating the food; my whole family’s from there; it’s a part of my life, but a part I’m missing, which will hopefully be fulfilled at some point,” she explains. Then she also grew up in a creative and international environment, moved around throughout her childhood, and has had a lifetime of exposure to various cultures. She attended the Le Rosey school in Switzerland, before moving to New York City and enrolling at New York University, where she followed in her family members’ footsteps and studied art history. Shortly after graduating, she decided to curate her first show in 2013 called Finding Absence with photographers she met at the International Center of Photography. Next, she interned in MoMA’s curatorial department of painting and sculpture. There, she found a nourishing and creative environment and got to work with the renowned Leah Dickerman on Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series.

Sachs’ taste as a curator and collector has evolved throughout the years. Her biggest and most important influence comes from experiential art and large-scale installations, like the work of Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson titled The Weather Project at London’s Tate Modern, as well as shows such as Marina Abramović’s The Artist is Present. “It was very much abouthaving this bodily experience,” recounts Sachs of Abramović’s exhibition.“You know when you walk into a space and all of your senses areheightened? It smells different, the taste of the air, the energy in the room. I like it’s inevitability, something that’s inescapable. That’s what I was completely drawn to; the power that it has on people. Even if they don’t want to be a part of it, they are.”

After MoMA, Sachs did a quick stint in the Sotheby’s marketing department before deciding to strike out on her own. While writing for various art publications, she already had a few artists in mind with whom she wanted to work. Her specialty in performance art happened very organically and her way of working involves not only curating, but hands-on elements like directing a performance. “I like to create something; to bring things together . . . at this point I am more of a creative director, because I am not only curating the shows but also help with bringing performance to life.” she explains.

Her most recent project was working with the Elephant Family charity on curating their Elephants Forever exhibition, which took place October 22 in New York City. The exhibition and the subsequent auction raised more than $1 million for the charity started by the late Mark Shand—a champion for elephant protection in Asia. Working with a big budget and with well-known artists—such as Rob Pruitt, Tracey Emin, and David Yarrow—Elephants Forever was the biggest project that Sachs has done to date. When asked what she liked most about the experience, she says: “Having a space come alive, it was about creating the experience where I took people out of their comfort zones and allowed them to explore and have a very sensory journey through understanding art.” During the kickoff party preceding the auction, Sachs gave VIPs the ultimate first glimpse at the inventory in a completely unconventional presentation. She used multi-media décor—including real bamboo branches and palm trees, coconuts and bananas in mid-fruitation, and high-tech elements like Google Earth virtual reality masks that transported guests to Samburu and overhead projection light elephants. A DJ spun and Bernardino Femminielli gave a live performance.Weaved in, amongst all the sensory stimulation, were the artworks set to be auctioned later that week.

Never one to rest on her laurels, Sachs is already looking into the future. With two upcoming projects in South America with LAMB Arts in London’s Mayfair, as well as working with Gertrude, an art salon, on a book called Regram for which she is curating work from important contemporary artists, she is busier than ever. Mostly she is looking forward to pushing boundaries and exploring new media to curate work that combines art, music performance and technology.

“My specialty has become performance and technology art. I want to see that grow, and that is what my focus is on, creating experience by bringing together ballet dancers, painters and opera singers. As an independent curator I love the idea of collaboration. Every project I do I work with a team, gallery, artist: it makes me feel a part of something,” she says.


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