Women in Art & Tech

Erin-Atlanta Argun
written by Erin-Atlanta Argun,
Date of publication28 Feb 2024
Last updated1 Mar 2024
The Women Building a More Transparent & Accessible Art World and Market
A screenprint by Andy Warhol depicting Grace Kelly with bright yellow blonde hair against a light sky blue backgroundGrace Kelly (F. & S. II.305) © Andy Warhol 1984
Joe Syer

Joe Syer, Co-Founder & Specialist[email protected]

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In celebration of International Women's Day 2024, themed ‘Inspire Inclusion’, we interview women who are pioneering the nexus of Art & Tech. In recent years, we have observed a significant evolution in this space, marked by increased female participation and leadership that challenge the traditional boundaries and narratives. As we explore these intersections, we not only illuminate the achievements and challenges faced by these trailblazers but also the profound impact of their work in fostering a more inclusive and innovative future.

As we commemorate International Women's Day 2024 under the theme of ‘Inspire Inclusion’, it is imperative to spotlight the stories of women who are at the forefront of this revolution. In conversation with five women paving the way to a more inclusive and transparent art market, we explore career milestones, challenges, and predictions for the future in this burgeoning frontier.

Here are the questions we asked:

  1. Throughout your career, how have you observed the professional landscape evolve for women in the art market?
  2. What has been the most rewarding aspect of working amidst the intersection of art and technology?
  3. What challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?
  4. Who has been a significant mentor or influence in your career?
  5. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
  6. What do you think the future holds for art and tech?
A photograph of Carina Popovici, CEO of Art RecognitionCarina Popovici, CEO of Art Recognition
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Carina Popovici, CEO of Art Recognition

Carina Popovici has been the CEO of Art Recognition since 2019, with a deep passion for art and extensive expertise in AI development spanning various industries. Carina’s mission is to foster transparency and objectivity within the art market using cutting-edge AI technologies. Art Recognition was founded before the AI revolution, at a time when the art market was still quite wary of technology. As well as developing a cutting-edge AI program to authenticate artworks and detect forgeries, Art Recognition has assumed an educational role to demystify how technology can enhance transparency and objectivity in the art market.

1.

I actually began working in physics research, and then I moved to the risk division of a large Swiss bank, after that I transitioned to the art market. In each of these fields, women have been historically massively underrepresented - especially in physics - however I can really say that, during the past 15 years, I have observed a very strong positive shift. Women are assuming increasingly higher leadership roles in big art institutions, and there is a wider appreciation of women’s work more broadly.

2.

I think the most rewarding part is being able to bring this technology into the art market and establish it as a standard tool for art authentication. We have done massive work to explain what it does and how it can improve the existing processes and add to transparency. We’ve been able to help people understand that AI isn’t something to be afraid of, but celebrated and embraced.

3.

The biggest challenge is certainly the scepticism of the art experts. Initially, they viewed our technology as a threat. Some of them still do. Our intention is certainly not to replace art experts, but to collaborate with them and support them in their work. Nevertheless, it will take a while until this element of fear will completely go away.

On a technical front, there is the big task of training data. We collect images and curate them, and then our art historians go to great lengths to verify all of these images against catalogue raisonés to make sure all of the training material is documented according to scholarly standards. This is more of a labour than a challenge, but a great feat nonetheless.

“AI isn’t something to be afraid of, but celebrated and embraced.”
Carina Popovici, CEO of Art Recognition
4.

I’m very honoured to mention Ully Wille, who’s an adviser to our company and also a board member. He has very extensive experience, working with the Wiltenstein Institute in Paris and also acting as the Head of Sotheby’s here in Zurich for more than 10 years. Our paths crossed before we started Art Recognition, when I had submitted this project to an innovation competition in Zurich and won a prize. Ully read about it in the newspaper and reached out, and has encouraged me ever since. He’s truly a mentor.

Outside of the art world, I’m very inspired by the Romanian tennis player Simona Halep. She’s a very determined person. She averages the most kilometres run during a game compared to her peers. If a ball goes to the opposite corner of the court, she will sprint towards it. I really like this attitude. She’s very ambitious, hardworking. She started as a newcomer and managed to beat Serena Williams in the Wimbledon Final so, for me, she’s a great example of achieving something through dedication and discipline.

5.

I think the most important thing I’ve learnt is to stay faithful to your mission. This is something that motivates me a lot, and is also the advice I would give to others. And, of course, not to be upset by pushbacks, scepticism or negativity.

6.

AI is in a really transformative phase at the moment, not just in the art market but in lots of different sectors of our lives. AI can make very strong positive changes, and Art Recognition is one of the leaders of this trend, but at the same time I think we need to be careful. AI can also bring very big dangers. In order to combat this, we are now feeding our algorithm deep fakes to train it. More widely, I think that if we stand together as a community to uphold the highest standards - in terms of integrity and scientific rigour - then we can control the risks. This way we can develop AI and other tech to transform the art market in such a positive way that the benefits outweigh the misuse, or potential misuse, of it.

A photograph of Kerstin Gold, Co-Founder of the ART+TECH ReportKerstin Gold, Co-Founder of the ART+TECH Report

Kerstin Gold, Co-Founder of the ART+TECH Report, Art Market Strategist, and ArtTech Advisor

Kerstin Gold is an Art & Tech strategy consultant for the art ecosystem and an advisor to ArtTech start-ups. She consults art market entrepreneurs on digital transformation, business model innovation, and art and tech developments, and serves as start-up mentor at VC-accelerator programs. Kerstin is co-founder and author of the ART+TECH Report, an independent research initiative examining the intersection of art and technology. Following her interest in blockchain and as a strong advocate for more diversity in the tech space, she served as the Berlin chapter leader of Women in Blockchain Talks and is a DLT Talent and NFT Talent with the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center.

1.

I believe we are at the beginning of a transformative shift in the professional landscape for women in the art market. Initially, the industry had a significant gender imbalance, with few opportunities for women to truly advance. However, we are currently witnessing a notable shift towards greater inclusivity and recognition of female talent in the art market, with more women taking on key roles ranging from curation and gallery management to auction houses and founders of ArtTech start-ups. With more female artists being represented, exhibited, and introduced to the market. And with organisations finally recognising the importance of creating a gender-inclusive workplace. Still, we are only the beginning.

2.

I have deliberately positioned myself at the intersection of art and technology for many years now, because I believe that these two topics do not have to be mutually exclusive. As a result, I take true pleasure in incorporating my beliefs and expertise into my consulting work, thereby contributing (in small ways) to our industry's digitalisation. I am extremely proud of my work with the Art+Tech Report, which, as an independent, self-funded, and freely accessible initiative, always meant to provide a free database and information tool for all those interested in their own future viability in the context of new technological developments in the art market. To see how this is accepted, how the report is used and quoted, the invitations to expert discussions and finally the many great responses from readers are simply a great confirmation.

3.

While I have of course encountered numerous challenges, including gender-specific issues, identifying myself as an expert in my field, regardless of gender, has been a guiding principle for me since very early on.

Being a woman in a domain often dominated by male networks and operating within closed systems presents its own set of challenges. As a result, active investing and participation in networks and communities of female experts has always provided me with significant support and empowerment. Finally, if you want to make an impact, you need to have a voice. And, in order to amplify the voices of women in the field, we must raise our own visibility, which may sometimes require us to step outside of our comfort zones.

“Change is good, particularly for our industry. And it will happen anyway, so get in early.”
Kerstin Gold, Co-Founder of the ART+TECH Report
4.

Quite a few. But first and foremost, my father, who challenged me from a very young age to think of solutions rather than problems.

Furthermore, the managing director I worked with during my years in London. Her highly professional, healthily competitive, content-oriented focus while always remaining supportive & polite and solving problems over a cup of PG Tips - has undoubtedly had a significant impact on my personal working and management style ever since.

5.

I live and work by these two principles and they have never let me down:

It's okay to be scared sometimes but do it anyway. And: Trust your instincts.

6.

The future of technology and art is poised for transformative changes, with several key developments expected to shape how art is created, bought, sold, and experienced. Some of them being:

New creative mediums and forms of art: We are already witnessing a remarkable transformation in which artists embrace new technologies as novel mediums and creative tools, thus broadening the horizons of artistic possibility. Artists and AI systems will collaborate creatively to produce unique and innovative creations. Blockchain technology has the potential to transform the way (digital) art is owned and distributed.

New accessibility: The intersection of technology and the art market has the potential to make art more accessible, democratic, and transparent, attracting new collectors and younger generations to the field of collecting.

New consumer (collector) needs: Technological innovations constantly alter human and social behaviours. As a result, understanding how the increasing availability of technologies affects consumer behaviour and collecting motivations will be critical. I believe that the success of future gallery and business models will depend on how much consumer-orientation is taken into account, and this will certainly change the (elitist) art world as we know it.

Personally, I see technology's impact on art and the art market as an enrichment and opportunity rather than a threat. Change is good, particularly for our industry. And it will happen anyway, so get in early. And I'm excited to see what still awaits us.

A photograph of Bernadine Bröcker Weider, CEO of ArcualBernadine Bröcker Weider, CEO of Arcual

Bernadine Bröcker Weider, CEO of Arcual

A prominent thought leader in the art and tech community, Bernadine is the CEO of Arcual, a technology company building the next generation of digital infrastructure for the artworld. Bernadine has a track record of successful entrepreneurial ventures, including Vastari, a cloud-based platform to connect museums, producers and collectors for international exhibition collaborations, and Vastari Labs, a museum NFT consultancy. Bernadine co-organised the first Christie’s Art+Tech Summit in 2018 and has facilitated blockchain proof of concepts with Everledger since 2016. She is a member of PAIAM, AWITA and the Worshipful Company of Art Scholars, and is regularly featured in media outlets including Apollo, BBC, Rolling Stone, and more for her expertise.

1.

The reality is that women largely run the artworld. Around 65% of it, according to estimated figures shared recently by AWITA. And yet there is a large historic disparity in terms of women in positions of leadership, and in salaries for men and women.

I think we are beginning to see that shift, particularly in the art and tech space. When you’re working using shared drives, with git commits and conversing using Slack or Discord and information is timestamped on the blockchain, it is easy to attribute the work that’s done to the right person - whether that is an executive within a company or a generative artist online. At Arcual, individual growth opportunities are embraced across the company, regardless of gender, background or job title.

2.

During these difficult times on a global level, it is important to remember our common human spirit, cherishing the things that bring us joy and meditation. Art is one of those things.

Can you imagine how rewarding it is to lead a talented, diverse team building digital tools that empower everyone in the art ecosystem - artists, galleries, and collectors - to produce and protect amazing artworks. Our mission is to create a more fair and transparent art world, and that inspires me every day.

3.

Preconceptions about gender, particularly in the workplace, can limit everything - creativity, personal development, and ultimately, a company's success. Overcoming these by empowering everyone to have a voice and feel able to contribute, is so important.

“Preconceptions about gender, particularly in the workplace, can limit everything - creativity, personal development, and ultimately, a company's success.”
Bernadine Bröcker Weider, CEO of Arcual
4.

A mentor that springs to mind on International Women's Day is Mark Sebba, who was a great influence on me before his untimely death in 2018. I admired his work ethic, clarity and openness. He would give you very direct and constructive criticism and was generous with his mind and time.

Why he comes to mind on IWD is because he was a staunch supporter of women - from his talented wife Anne who is an accomplished historian and author to his most well-known business partner Natalie Massenet, whose business Net-a-Porter he ran as CEO with an ongoing respect to her vision while also honing in on the numbers.

5.

Reid Hoffman's quote — “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late." Some people think this means that you should cut corners and launch something crappy in version 1 - that's not what it's about. It's the fact that you will never know exactly what customers want until the product is in their hands to be used. This quote is about making sure you are getting the product out there to get customer feedback as soon as possible, because if you take too much time to perfect it in the lab before launching, you won't be able to iterate to a better version with real-life data.

6.

I am excited by blockchain technology’s ability to create trusted digital entry points to the art market, bringing in much needed new collectors, regardless of their background, geographical location or existing networks. In an age of deep fakes and AI-generated spam, this is more important than ever before.

A photograph of Kristen Yraola, Digital-First Marketer Formerly at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, L’Oréal, Omnicom, ShiseidoKristen Yraola, Digital-First Marketer Formerly at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, L’Oréal, Omnicom, Shiseido

Kristen Yraola, Digital-First Marketer Formerly at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, L’Oréal, Omnicom, Shiseido

Kristen is a digital-first marketing executive with over 20 years of experience in leading omnichannel marketing strategies and championing digital transformation for apex fine art and beauty brands.

Most recently, she led global digital marketing at Christie's and then Sotheby's, driving digital audience development, engagements and transactions, as they pivoted towards serving an increasingly digital clientele.

Prior to that, Kristen spent over 17 years in beauty, including industry leader, L'Oréal, where she honed her digital marketing skills. She managed the digital marketing transformation for their US pillar brands, Maybelline New York and Garnier, overseeing the digital consumer experience, multimillion dollar digital advertising investments and the evolving use of content, social media and augmented reality, to better connect with consumers.

1.

I think I joined the art market at just about the right time in 2014. Having come from the beauty industry, where female executive leaders were not uncommon, when I arrived at Christie’s in 2014, it was heartening to see so many female leaders in executive roles across the business. The most recent Presidents for Christie’s US have been female, first Jen Zatorksi and then Bonnie Brennan and at Sotheby’s the global fine art businesses are led by Mari-Claudia Jimenez and Brooke Lampley. From a technology perspective, the heads of digital marketing & growth at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s continue to be female led, the SVP of Product at Sotheby’s is also female. If one has the chops to do the job effectively and being female, at least from my perspective has not limited myself or my colleagues.

The biggest leaps, I have seen, and have been with the Artist side of the business. If you asked me 10 years ago who were the top female artists sold at auction, I’d be hard-pressed to name even just a handful. Today, when you see what’s coming under the gavel and what’s record-breaking, there are so many to count - Joan Mitchell, Jenny Saville, Agness Martin, Georgia O’Keefe, Cecily Brown - the list just continues.

2.

Executing digital marketing includes managing the paid platforms like Google and Meta - and amplifying the content of the auctions and having the ability to see it everywhere online has been the most rewarding. These are some of the beautiful, coveted items made by man, with rich stories - and those stories weren’t just stuck in a printed catalogue, but thoughtfully told on the social platforms, the websites and video and banner ads that took over the home pages of major websites. Couple that with the ability to see which platform/ad/video is the most engaging, performing the best for clients and prospects, for a marketer, that gives you validation that what you’ve spent your time working on is worth it! That’s been the most rewarding for me to see and experience.

3.

When I was more junior in my career back in my beauty days, I thankfully didn’t encounter it that much - I think it had a lot to do with digital marketing not seeming as sexy as it might be seen today. And because I was spouting off so much data of what was working and what wasn’t, I probably sounded more like an accountant vs “data-driven Marketer.” That said, I did face some “man-splaining” when I first arrived at Christie’s from more technical counter-parts on other teams. Because I was more seasoned and comfortable in speaking my opinions, I was rather direct with them not having to dumb down language for my sake. I don’t know that I would have been able to do that if I were 10-12 years younger.

“You are the driver of your career… not your parents, not your manager, not HR.”
Kristen Yraola, Digital-First Marketer Formerly at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, L’Oréal, Omnicom, Shiseido
4.

My parents. As children of immigrants who gave my siblings and I a very good start and boost in life, there was always this drive for us to make good on what our parents had given to us. To whom you are born is entirely based on luck and we were taught to never squander it, so I think that's what's driven me to always try my best, particularly in my career. My father was also an electrical engineer, who was endlessly curious and I must have inherited that from him, because you need it in my space. All of the marketing-technology platforms I come across are continually evolving,to keep up with it, one needs to be insatiably curious to understand it all!

5.

You are the driver of your career… not your parents, not your manager, not HR. They can all influence it for sure, but where you want to go, what you want to do next is entirely up to the individual. Don’t wait to get picked, you’ve got to put yourself out there if you want a certain job, promotion, project…raise your hand. You might get rejected, once, twice, twenty times, but hey that happens, that’s called life. I think there are some junior folks, who are timid about being vulnerable and that’s normal. But if you get accustomed to facing and experiencing rejection, obstacles, it gets a lot easier to handle as you get older, I promise.

6.

I think technology, particularly in the realm of AI, has opened a Pandora's box relative to legal concepts, like copyright and fair use, and affecting the input into these AI models, and the output of these models.

We see this today, playing out in the lawsuits that the NY Times and Washington Post have filed against OpenAI and Microsoft. Their suits allege that the data used to train the GPT4 AI model were illegally scraped from such sources, then the output on ChatGPT can sometimes mirror these publications’ content verbatim.

Getty Images has also filed a similar suit, but for stock images, against Stability AI platform for allegedly using Getty stock images to train its generative AI.

Artists have always influenced each other, but that was done normally with human hands, so the scale of forgery, repetition can be somewhat mitigated. But with an AI model, that is multiplied by 1000.

A photograph of Charlotte Stewart, Managing Director of MyArtBrokerCharlotte Stewart, Managing Director of MyArtBroker

Charlotte Stewart, Managing Director of MyArtBroker

Charlotte has spent 16 years in the secondary fine art market, starting her career at Christie’s auction house, before leaving to consult a number of online secondary market online art platforms looking to disrupt the traditional structures preventing access and control for collectors. As the Managing Director of MyArtBroker, a unique art and tech business, she runs a unique trading platform for blue-chip prints as an investment asset, aiming to create control, transparency and access in the most investable of art markets: Prints & Editions.

1.

From an artist's perspective, I am acutely aware of the still present gender gap between male and female artists and their representation. This is not a primary market issue - it’s not enough to turn the tables now and celebrate female emerging artists, we need to look back at the imbalance that covers centuries of underrepresented female artists, women whose work has missed years of appreciating in value - and whilst this offers an opportunity for collectors to capitalise - it means your work is cut out in discovering them.

In terms of the industry and how it’s evolved in my lifetime - when I started at Christie’s in 2007, there was one man in nine women at that level in the company. The men stood out, they tended to aim for the next step faster, and act more ambitiously and the vast majority of the leadership roles were men that they aspired to be. Today the marketplace is a much more diverse place, in almost all ways - and so much larger than it was in the early 2000s.

There are now more women than men in the most senior roles, but the question still remains if they are being remunerated fairly. Bonhams famously closed their pay gap publicly in 2023 under India Phillips’ Management, resulting in more eyes on Christie’s and Sotheby’s to do the same.

Historically from my perspective, the problem has not been as much about gender as it has been about nepotism, a large proportion of young people with higher education in the arts offer a continuous stream of willing well-connected fresh talent, lining up to take roles at certain institutions for the cache, regardless of market rate, and can survive on it. Of which most are women…

2.

The most rewarding aspect has been pioneering a new norm at the intersection of art and technology. Rather than disrupting, we are shaping what the new norm should be and witnessing its engagement.

I know I’ve talked more about this more than any other topic, but the big auction houses and glamour high street galleries are excellent theatres, but they are useless 21st century businesses in my opinion for the vast majority of secondary market work.

The market for the most part still sells art like it sold iron-ware and cattle in the Middle Ages. 20 years ago if you were a gallery with a website, you said you were an ‘Art & Tech business’ which is funny now, but at the time was acceptable. Now in 2024 we’re on the frontier of what AI can do. Where next, that’s the rewarding bit.

It’s the constant evolution of capability, solution, access that tech provides in conjunction with legacy and market-making that the secondary market offers which I find extremely compelling.

4.

Throughout my career, I've been fortunate to be guided by exceptional mentors, including Lucy Brown (Head of Client Insight at Christie’s), Sarah Briggs (now CMO at Phillips), and Mark Sands (CMO at Bonhams). Each has been inspirational in their own way and hugely supportive.

Without too much of a plug I think I have been most privileged to have found MyArtBroker during my consultancy years, having fully committed to a consultancy career, and thriving in it, a company and mission needed to be a pretty special to tempt me back to ownership within one business. Ian & Joe Syer are the visionaries at MyArtBroker - and as anyone who knows what it’s like working with visionary minds, there are challenges - but when you find yourself winning, and making that vision work, that synchronicity is deeply rewarding. The mission and entire ethos at MyArtBroker remain deeply inspirational to me.

“The market for the most part still sells art like it sold iron-ware and cattle in the Middle Ages. Now in 2024, we’re on the frontier of what AI can do.”
Charlotte Stewart, Managing Director of MyArtBroker
5.

“Turn up early, (but not weirdly early), look people in the eye, and get to it. You’re already halfway there.”

It works for almost anything: You, brand messaging, an editorial story, building tech, your kids on sports day…

6.

I think in the next 50 years the entrenched dynamics within the art market will look drastically different because of how the next generation will collect, buy, sell, appreciate and engage with art. We and they will shape it: the millennials, the Gen Zs who are already building it. Right now the boomers still monopolise the majority of the market in terms of value expenditure.

Can tech replace the knowledge of seasoned professionals? This question is pivotal because I think there will always be a need for personal expertise, service, and attention. But without embracing technological advancement, the art market risks stagnation, and those that don’t will either be dead or left behind.

Joe Syer

Joe Syer, Co-Founder & Specialist[email protected]

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