Bettina Korek is the proverbial “woman about town,” though which town she’s about may well change from one day to the next. Founder of ForYourArt, she’s based in Los Angeles, where she and her team strive to spread the appreciation and support of art, but she’s also actively engaged in projects around the world: New York, Spain, Switzerland, and beyond.

Bettina and Base spent a moment in LA recently, talking about art, design, marketing, audience development, and technology. We’ll be seeing more of her in May, when we participate together on a panel about “stealing” from contemporary culture during the annual American Association of Museums conference, also in LA.

Base: How involved are you in the day-to-day operations of ForYourArt now that you have a staff to support you?
Bettina Korek: ForYourArt has an untraditional structure and operates as a flexible constellation of collaborators—individuals and institutions—who are all committed to patronage, and I’m involved with all of them.

B: How does having your own company enable you to be more effective than working within a contemporary institution?
BK: It’s a different kind of effectiveness. There are days I really miss walking in a museum, the feeling of cultural permanence that sets the tone for the mundane activities of the work day but the layers of decision-making, although necessary, inevitably restrict how quickly an institution can react. I prefer to support the instauration from the outside. And because of our size, ForYourArt has the agility to weave in and out of things. But I am passionate about connecting what is happening inside the institutions to what is happening on the ground.

guernica

Billboard project, Guernica “UN”covered, 2003. Bettina’s first public art project, with Jesse Stagg, done while with the Making Art Work collective. The tapestry hung at the U.N., Guernica during the day, and at night a black light revealed the U.N. symbol.

B: In your opinion, how do marketing and communication strategy differ for contemporary art than for entertainment, music, and fashion?
BK: The painter Maria Lassnig said, “Interviews always ask me whether I too lament the fact that art is only something for the privileged few, but if art were for everyone, if it were understood by everyone, then it would have to look different.”
Art is what entertainment, music, and fashion, have in common, but contemporary art is increasingly overlapping with these worlds in a way that doesn’t always uphold the integrity of the art. It’s difficult for contemporary art to get it right but I think the slower the change the more it allows the art world to learn the best lessons that entertainment, music, and fashion have to offer. What’s more interesting to me are the ways it doesn’t always differ very much but I definitely think it should.

MAP ForYourArt

The first issue of MAP ForYourArt.

B: You have been described as a person who “knows everyone.” Do you seek out these connections or does this happen naturally? Who don’t you know that you would like to?
BK: I take after my father, who is very friendly. It’s interesting that in this age of social media people forget that knowing someone is very different than having a relationship with them.

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Cindy Sherman, “Untitled Film Still”. Installed as part of Women in the City, a West of Rome Public Art project that ForYourArt worked on. This is the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire outside of LACMA West.

B: Is there a specific person you see as a mentor, someone who has encouraged and inspired you over the years?
BK: Absolutely. Kevin Salatino, who was the first person that I worked for at a museum, when he was the head of the prints and drawings department at LACMA, continues to encourage, inspire, and advise me. He is currently the Director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

B: In your opinion, what makes you such a powerful fundraiser?
BK: You can never be a powerful enough fundraiser. I’ve had the luxury of only supporting things that I am truly passionate about.

bag

Tote bag created by Intermix through a collaboration with Marilyn Minter, featuring a still from “Green Pink Caviar.” Proceeds from the bag supported breast cancer charity Bright Pink.

B: In addition to LA, what other places inspire you?
BK: Right now China and India. I really regretted missing the Indian Highway exhibition at the Serpentine, which was heavily researched.

B: Has the rise of social media made you rethink your communications strategy?
BK: Of course. Social media is essentially a new medium and access point, but there is still territory to be explored in terms of it being an extension of people’s activities instead of standing in for them.

kido

Yayoi Kusama-inspired face painting at the first Beverly Hills Public Art Party, an event produced by ForYourArt to celebrate art in Beverly Hills.

B: You feel very strongly about Hans Ulrich Obrist. Why is he extraordinary?
BK: I think the artist Joseph Grigley, who works with Hans Ulrich’s archive, sums it up well: “No curator has quite explored the meaning of exhibition space the way Hans Ulrich Obrist has done—the architecture of exhibitions at the turn of the 21st century—how they occupy multi-dimensional spaces that are both real spaces and representations of spaces.”

Read part 2 of this interview here.