Asia Robinson is an American in London and a passionate art consultant with a great eye for talent.
How do you feel about art? Interested in buying pieces, but don’t know where to start? Not your kind of thing, or a little bit intimidated by it?
Over the past few years I’ve decided to actively explore my art preferences and do some research as I’d like to start collecting one day.
Probably because I’m originally from Ghana, I’m really drawn to contemporary African art, pieces that showcase the breadth of styles, themes in modern day Africa – not just the stereotypical ‘mother with baby on back / load on head, or assembled members of a tribal group’ images.
Like most people, I tend to just like what I like but it had never gone much further than that. So in an effort to ‘up my art game’ I went to a talk on ‘African Art Insights’.
Asia was one of the expert panel at this talk, I loved her energy, enthusiasm and obvious love of her subject so much, that I introduced myself and asked if she’d be up for an interview…
Asia’s CV summary
- Originally from New Jersey, USA
- Received her Masters in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art
- Founded her fine art consultancy ‘Trine Fortuna’ in 2017
- Consults for galleries, institutions, artists and private companies
- Has sold artwork for international artists including Sokari Douglas Camp MBE, Victor Ekpuk, Arlene Wandera and Adelaide Damoah
Delali: How did Asia, Hollywood employee become Asia, art consultant?
Asia: I worked in the film industry for about six, seven years, and then decided to leave Los Angeles, after a period of “woe is me, what am I doing with my life?” Then it was just “okay, I love art. I’m interested in art, but don’t know what I can do with that.” Part of the problem is not knowing the career options that exist in art, so I’m very grateful that I stumbled upon it by accident or by design – however you want to think of it. I was encouraged by a Director of a gallery in LA, and had a really informative conversation with my parents, so I moved back to New York and did a Master’s in Art Business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, doing my final semester in London.
Whilst in London I discovered the burgeoning world of contemporary African art and that time as a student I was writing my dissertation on ‘The Contemporary Nigerian Art Market,” so was interviewing everybody in the field that I could get my hands on. I had so many questions – who are these artists, what does the artwork look like, what part of Africa are they coming from, and what’s happening in the diaspora? So by the end of that I had a firm passion for contemporary African art.
Delali: What was it about contemporary African art that inspired you?
Asia: For me, that has everything to do with the fact that I’m African American. I come from a family and a group of friends that are pretty down for the cause and down for people, and I really wanted to be involved in the black community in whatever way. When I was in the States it was working with an African American dealer who only represents African American, Caribbean and African artists.
I was like, “this is what I care about, this is my community,” because like anyone else anywhere you care about what’s yours and you want to be involved and look for opportunities to do that. So it was just a combination of “I care about being involved in the black community, but I also care about art. Where can I go?” So even though it started out as a paper subject, it really was my personal connection.
Delali: What kind of reaction do you get when people find out what you do?
Asia: Most people are just intrigued, particularly if I’m around friends or colleagues/associates of colour, because they’re like, “hang on, what? I’ve found in this country, to a lot of people, art can be seen as exclusive, and you’re expected to have come from money and have an art history degree.
That is not the mentality in New York or LA, they understand that art is universal, it’s important, that it should be part of our educational system. The value of art is relatively well understood, but how people decide to get involved or not, is a separate thing.
Here in the UK I was called a unicorn once and when I asked why, the lady said, “you’re African American, you live in the UK, you have two degrees, your own company and you’re working in this field!” So for her it was a combination of things she had not met before.
So yes I do sometimes get a bit of a ‘you’re so unique’ type of reaction, and that has been weird for me because back home, I’m one of many. There are lots of women of colour doing exactly what I’m doing and/or running museums.
Delali: What’s your advice to new collectors?
Asia: First of all, know yourself. Know what you like, what you care about, what kind of collector you are going to be. Do you want to focus on just a few artists really go in and support them in their career? Do you want to spread the love a little more? Are you genuinely only caring about this because of an investment or do you want to be a part of a movement?
If you’re a collector, you’re going to be who you are, but you’ve got to know who that is, because when you go to a gallery, to a consultant, they’re going to ask “what are you looking for and what are your priorities? Any gallery worth their salt will want to see that the collector’s priorities line up with their priorities whatever those are. It doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t sell to them, but it might determine whether or not to have a relationship with them as opposed to just a one-off sale.
If you’re someone with no idea where to start, you’ve got to get out there. You’ve got to go to museums, to art museums, to galleries and events.
The second thing is to do some research, once you’ve started to get an idea of what you’re drawn to. “Okay, I’m really into Chinese abstract painting – so where are they at? Who’s new, who’s old?” Get to know the field as you would hopefully take an interest in the artist, what they’re doing and the direction they’re trying to go in, etc. Or maybe you realise that you’ve got really eclectic tastes and you just like to dip your hand into a little bit of everything.
And the third thing I would say – you can’t talk about art without talking about money because even the most pure, political, ‘I’m just making my art because of the message’ artist still has to eat and have a roof over their head.
So as a collector be honest with yourself about your budget and about what you do and don’t like. It makes a consultant or a gallerist’s job easier if they know what you’re saying yes and no to. I do feel like as a collector, clarity is key, but you can discover new things even if your mind was on something else.
Ultimately just be honest about who you are, what you want and what matters to you and put that information forward because then we can help you. That doesn’t mean don’t show up until you’ve got millions, because there are galleries that sell very good art work for £50.
Delali: What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about the art world?
Asia: That this isn’t a career option. I wish I had known about that Masters programme earlier. Let me tell you – I would have done that programme when I was 23 like all the other students, not 28 / 29.
At the time I was living in LA, it seemed like the only answer was to go into the film industry, so that’s what I did. But if at that point someone had said, “do you know you can look at fine art, either dealing or museums or whatever? I think I would have seriously considered it then and very possibly gone in that direction.
You don’t have to do ten years in finance and then detour into the arts. You can start here, be successful, make money and do well at this. Plan on this from the jump and you can build your own niche. It isn’t without its pitfalls and pretty serious difficulties, I do wish I had known at the time, but it worked out well for me.
Delali: What do you have planned next?
Asia: I really want to meet more interior designers that want to partner with me and who are looking for someone that can help place artwork in their projects.
Connecting with interior designers will be helpful because as much as I am starting to be clued into the contemporary African design world, I’m like, “but what’s happening here in the UK?” Because again in New York it’s in your face, it’s on every corner, in the home stores, offices, everywhere!
I always want to find more art, discovering new artists is always enjoyable, so I’m looking for people that I should already know and people that nobody knows yet.
Photographs or paintings?
Colour or black and white?
Probably colour. If I could get certain artist’s work in black and white, I could die and be happy, otherwise it’s got to be colour.
Antique or brand new?
Brand new is more expensive. Well actually sometimes antique is more expensive, but probably brand new. I would buy a new build before I buy a Victorian home.
What’s your superpower?
I think anybody who knows me probably would say (and I can hear my Dad’s voice) the gift of gab. Not like I’m pitching at people all the time, but I do one to one relationships extremely well because I like people to be comfortable. You know, take your armour off, put your feet up for a while, have a coffee and let’s get to know each other.
“Art is… important.”