Meet Rachael Buchwald
Special Projects Director
The Armory Show
MA Contemporary Art, London, 2014
What is your current position, what are your responsibilities?
My current position is Special Projects Director at The Armory Show. My job is multifaceted—as many are in the art world—but the main focus of my position is working with annually appointed curators to develop and produce two of our sections: Focus and Platform. Focus realizes the vision of a curator through a selection of new or rarely seen work by today’s most relevant and compelling artists. Platform stages large-scale artworks, installations, and commissions across Piers 92 & 94. In addition, I manage our restaurant partnerships, hire our temporary staff of over 50 individuals, and provide strategic financial planning for the fair.
How has your career evolved since you graduated from Sotheby's Institute?
My career has developed and evolved quite organically since leaving the program. It has also been on a trajectory toward art fair work, unbeknownst to me. I was lucky enough to start working almost immediately, thanks to a classmate from Sotheby’s, and was hired on for a short internship at Gagosian to assist the Gallery in the booth during Frieze Masters. It was my first introduction to working at an art fair. I then moved to New York and began working at a gallery in Chelsea that focused on Contemporary Photography. It was a small team, which allowed me to really develop my interests. While there, I worked closely with artists to plan future exhibitions, managed the general needs of the gallery, assisted with sales, and prepped for our art fair calendar. This is where I first attended and worked The Armory Show. At the gallery, I realized that working on the production side of things—either for exhibitions or art fairs—ensuring all details were organized and ready under a specific timeline, is where I excelled.
How did you come to your current position?
While working for the Chelsea gallery I realized that I really enjoyed the pace and excitement of art fairs. When I joined The Armory Show team, the fair was in the midst of developing a number of new initiatives, including the introduction of Platform and the restructuring of Focus. Working with artists to help them realize their vision has always been a great interest of mine and I was instantly excited about the opportunities my role offered. Over the next two and a half years, I was promoted from Special Projects Manager to Director. I now lead my department in developing long term strategy for our curatorial initiatives and extended partnerships.
How did your time on the MA program prepare you for what you are doing now? What was your favorite part of the program and what was most relevant to the role you have now?
I came to Sotheby’s after almost 4 years of working in the art world at museums and galleries in both the United States and Canada. During my time in London, I was introduced to a vast array of institutions and art-related entities that I hadn’t yet explored. We traveled extensively and visited private collections in Holland and smaller museums throughout England. I was fascinated by all of the different possibilities of jobs outside of the expected gallery roles. I think this planted the seed for a multifaceted role that would allow me to work on new and exciting projects year after year. I loved writing my dissertation. I travelled to Norway to visit a retrospective on Elmgreen & Dragset, the artist-duo at the focus of my paper, and it really allowed me to dig deep into their practice. I think it set the stage for my interest in working on large-scale site-specific installations.
How do you think the art world is evolving? How might these changes affect your professional outlook and plans?
Given that I run our staffing program, I am constantly in awe of how much new graduates are doing. It seems like everyone has a curatorial credit or side project. I think the proliferation of social media has opened up a world of artist development and exposure we’ve never seen before. I’m always scouring Instagram for images of projects in-situ. I find it to be one of my most valuable resources for understanding how the public will interact with an artwork. I think people want to see work in different, unique spaces, outside of the traditional white box. I hope to continue to grow in this arena, developing interesting projects for visitors to enjoy and experience, either at an art fair on the Hudson River or in a park in the neighborhood. For now, I’m already focused on how to make our 25th anniversary edition of The Armory Show, the best yet!
Image: A painting by Sean Landers at Galerie Rodolphe Janssen on Pier 94; Photo by BFA, Courtesy of The Armory Show 2016