Visionary Women: Art Gallery Co-Directors Share Their Secrets to Success

By Michael McCarthy | October 5, 2020 | Culture Interviews

Galerie d’Orsay celebrates 20 years as its co-directors guide the welcoming arts space with a renewed vision for collectors.

Galerie d’Orsay’s co-director Kristine Feeks Hammond.

Survival in the art world relies on a little luck, a dash of hubris, monumental vision and the ability to gauge artistic movements and tastes. For Galerie d’Orsay Co-Directors Kristine Feeks Hammond and Martha S. Folsom, all of this has become second nature. The women, who have been at the gallery on Newbury Street for 17 and 11 years, respectively, have taken on new roles as founder Sallie Hirshberg takes a much-needed step back. The gallery, which celebrates two decades this fall, offers work that spans six centuries of art. Collectors will find old masters, impressionists, modern artists and an internationally renowned stable of living artists. We sat down with Feeks Hammond and Folsom to get their take on longevity in the business, the state of collecting and the artists they love right now.

“Color Boundaries 59” by Natasha Zupan, whose work is at the gallery.

As the art marketplace gets more competitive every day, what sets Galerie d’Orsay apart in Boston and beyond?

KFH: Our standards for sourcing masterworks as well as new artwork are exacting. The collection is insightful, beautiful and vetted, but our staff is what has brought about our sustained success.

MSF: Galerie d’Orsay is one of those rare places you look forward to visiting every time you travel to Boston, as you might a small and intimate museum. Not only do our collectors trust us to be the source for six centuries of art—from Dürer and Rembrandt... [to] Picasso and Matisse to our contemporary artists—they often feel they’re returning to visit a trusted friend with insights as to what artwork might be next for them.

Galerie d’Orsay co-director Martha S. Folsom.

Is there a typical client in your gallery?

KFH: Oh, that’s a tough one. No acquisition is the same, as people collect art for many different reasons. Some are seeking an artist they loved as a child and share stories of an influential museum visit from years ago. Some are building a collection around a theme—a time period or particular artist or subject. Others are seeking inspiration— or maybe a little art therapy these days—for a particular place in their home.

“Balance Above” by Kathy Buist, whose work will be featured in Women in Art at Galerie d’Orsay this month.

Who are some of your favorite artists represented at the gallery?

KFH: I find myself repeatedly drawn to artworks with a story, so that brings quite a range visually. We recently had a work by Pablo Picasso that told the story of David and Bathsheba that was mesmerizing to me—seeing how the artist chose to reveal parts of the story can be so fascinating. The storytelling aspect can also emerge from what inspired the artist to create the piece. Henri Matisse’s ‘Jazz Suite’ is a perfect example.

MSF: One of my favorite roles as codirector is my artist liaison relationship with Bruno Zupan, Kathy Buist and Samir Sammoun, to name a few. Each has a special place in my heart, and we’re often in communication from week to week. I’m continuously in awe of their connection with nature and how they capture light so masterfully. In turn, I’ll share our collectors’ stories of gratitude and appreciation for their work, and perhaps plant a seed for what might interest them next.

Who are some emerging artists you’re particularly excited about?

KFH: I’m finding the works by SEN-1 (sen1.com) of particular interest these days. Apart from perhaps Keith Haring, graffiti art wasn’t mentioned much when I earned my degree, but that’s certainly changing. SEN-1 was there for the birth of hip-hop in New York, the development of break-dancing and, yes, breaking into train yards as a preteen to express himself on the coveted No. 1 train. SEN-1’s ardent messages of hope while our country finds its way in addressing the racial divide is inspiring. There’s a richness to street art, and the art world is certainly recognizing graffiti art in a major way right now.

“Fences Fled Away” by Emily Mason, whose work is also featured in this month’s exhibit.

How do we keep art—and building a collection—relevant, especially now?

KFH: We believe in the power of art, and it’s our mission to share that with others. Art has the power to lift and inspire. It deepens the quality of our conversations with our children and our friends and family in our homes. It isn’t food on the table or air to breathe, but it’s essential.

MSF: Waking up to art that you love is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. [We help you] find works that speak to you within our vast collection. 33 Newbury St., 617.266.8001, galerie-dorsay.com

Photography by: Ben Flythe