The emerging artist Q&A: Stephanie Manasseh

Yieldstreet explores the world of emerging art with the curators, advisors, and experts immersed in the field.

The Accessible Art Fair. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Manasseh

Stephanie Manasseh, the art advisor and curator who founded SM Art Advisory, grew up in a creative home in Montreal. Her mother was a professional artist and for a stretch of post-college years when Manasseh found herself teaching English in Europe, she thought: Why not introduce my mother’s art here? Portfolio in hand, she went from gallery to gallery only to be met with closed doors. “There isn’t much room for the emerging artist, especially before social media,” says Manasseh who is based in Brussels and New York. The experience would eventually lead her to create the Accessible Art Fair, which, 16 years later, continues to make artists accessible to the public and the public accessible to the art.

In Yieldstreet’s continuing commitment to investing in the art community, we caught up with Manasseh to talk about the emerging art world and where to find fresh talent.

“There isn’t one clear definition,” Manasseh says of emerging artists.

Over the span of 16 years, you’ve probably seen so many changes in the emerging art world. 

It’s been quite the adventure. I get a lot of energy from the Accessible Art Fair. It’s been a very exciting thing to watch it grow, it’s like seeing your baby grow into a teenager—and this teenager has now grown up. I’m actually in the process of putting the fair in the hands of a new director for the first time! She’s amazing. She’s younger and coming in with a new energy, and an understanding of all of the new technologies. I think it’s time. 

How do you define “emerging artist”?

Honestly, I think it’s been misused and I think it puts artists in a certain box where most of them don’t belong. What does “emerging artist” actually mean? Is it just for artists of a certain age? Is it for artists of a certain background or trajectory? There isn’t one clear definition. 

I had a meeting with Sol Lewitt’s wife, Carol Lewitt, a little while ago, and I told her how I felt about this word. She said, “Actually, what you’re doing is giving a platform to underrepresented artists, not unrepresented artists.” And I thought, “You know what Carol? You’re a genius.” These are underrepresented artists, artists who need wider audiences to get out there into the world more. There are only about four very important galleries and then eight that are considered “top end.” And if the artists are not with them, they are considered “emerging.” I think it’s just unfair and the world is changing. 

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What are the best ways to discover underrepresented artists? 

Just get out there. That’s what I would suggest to anyone who is interested in collecting. Go to art fairs, go to openings. My favorite art fair is TEFAF. Two years ago they launched in New York, and I think that it’s the highest quality art fair out there. Every single work is vetted by a group of professionals, so you know that every single work there is what it claims to be. I love that one. 

Is there an artist you’ve recently felt inspired by?

I’m getting more and more interested in sculpture, and working with more sculpture artists than I ever did. I’m starting to get a real appreciation for the time, the effort, the material, and the processes that go into creating sculptures. I love Kennedy Yanko. She works in metal, which is rare for women. She does large-scale sculptures that are incredible and she’s a real darling of the art world now—and it’s all from her hard work. 

What’s on the horizon for 2022?

The work that I’m doing on Berkshire House in Massachusetts is super exciting. I created this concept called “Twelve”—which brings 12 strangers around the table to enjoy food and wine, it’s a chance for creatives to get to know each other and get inspired. It’s a dream.    

All of Yieldstreet’s Art Equity Funds include emerging artists, because we invest like art collectors: diversification, diversity, and representation are pillars of responsible art collecting and make for strong financial portfolios. Invest in art today.

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