Katrine Levin loves the power of art – after working 15 years as a lawyer in New York and London, she switched careers to art curation.
Multi-lingual, she works with artists from places less explored, exhibits their work online and (Covid willing) in London and New York. Her next exhibition will be this Autumn.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I founded Katrine Levin Galleries, a London-based pop-up gallery specialising in extraordinary contemporary art from places less explored. We like to say that the gallery is not a place but a destination to experience extraordinary art that views the world from fresh perspectives.
At Katrine Levin Galleries we go beyond the art to share each artist’s personal story and cultural context which are part and parcel of the energy captured on canvas. I am adamant to focus on art of enduring value – irrespective of hype or trends – that brings joy by engaging the heart and mind, opening the magic door to cultural exploration, and providing inspiration by looking at the world from a different angle.
I did not start off with a gallery. My initial training is as a lawyer, and I practiced intellectual property law for 15 years in New York and London. However, I learned early on that art can change your life and make everything better. So, when I could, received an MLitt in Art History and I never looked back since.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Well, I tried! I started off as a pre-med, changed tack to law, and much later in life formally studied art history. Even then, I was thinking of working as a curator or advisor, the idea of a gallery did not occur to me until I saw the amazing breadth and depth of talent in China’s remote Yunnan Province and knew that I had to get these and other artists from places less explored seen by Western audiences.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Sure! I graduated law school during a major recession in the U.S. and sent over 200 resumes before finding a job about a year later. Changing from law to art was a bit like having a lobotomy. In law, there is a strict set of objective rules; in art, everything is fluid and subjective. Starting a gallery in London 2 years after I moved there from New York, without really knowing anybody and far out of my comfort zone was a huge challenge and I made plenty of mistakes along the way but what a tremendously rewarding experience. I have grown with the gallery and am continuing to learn all the time.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
In terms of the gallery, placing an artwork by Chen Li in The British Museum. Chen Li, who lives and works in Yunnan’s frontier Yunnan Province, is one of the first artists I signed up and really the impetus for the gallery. He is a master of painting and a special type of woodblock printmaking called jueban. After his first exhibition with me in 2017, his woodblock print “Human Buddha” was acquired and exhibited by The British Museum. This is huge.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Believing that you can. Dreaming big.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I often work with interns whom I help informally but I never formally mentored. I suppose my one constant mentor is and has always been my mother – a woman of extraordinary will and vision.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
Treat women the same as men – from equal pay to equal acknowledgment based on merit whether in art or any other field. I never set out to specifically work with women, but as it turns out most of my team – from graphic design to PR – are women, simply because they are, as individuals, the best at what they do.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Stop being so serious! Lighten up, trust your instincts, and enjoy the ride. Fear is an illusion.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My next challenge is to place our other artists in major museums and museum exhibitions. I am also in the process of making several art documentaries exploring extraordinary artists from places less explored and exceptional lives not broadly known. We all need more inspirational stories in our lives, so watch this space.
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