Alexie's career path from VideoEzy to international art curator

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Alexie Glass-Kantor is a curator, cultural producer and advocate for the arts. She is currently the executive director of Artspace, Sydney; the curator of Encounters for Art Basel in Hong Kong; and in 2022 will curate artist Marco Fusinato for the Australian Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

She works with living artists on how their work contributes to political and social culture. COVID has brought great insecurity for the arts.

However, Glass-Kantor was able to work with the government and invest in digital programming where $100,000 was spent commissioning an artist a week over 12 months to create new works responding to what they were experiencing.

alexie glass kantor art curator

What was your first job?

My first job was babysitting. My first real job was working in VideoEzy in Chatswood - it was the summer of Beaches - I have Bette Midler on the brain, from the VHS videos and t-shirts. I can still say "But that's enough about me, let's talk about you... what do you think about me?".

What's the best money advice you've received?

Buy less but buy the best you can afford. It was my great Aunty Rae. She was a beautiful doyenne and we'd go on adventures together and have high teas. She didn't have a lot of money and was widowed in her 40s. She worked in retail, was in a generation when she had to leave school early and was a single mother.

When I was born, she was in her 60s and we spent a lot of time together. She had beautiful clothes and hair and lived elegantly. She was inspiring to me. She used her best for everyday. She taught me to buy the best you can afford and treasure it. If you break it you can replace it. I like that approach in terms of the environment and climate change. I like that with my kids. You don't need a lot of jeans, just one pair of great jeans.

What's the best investment decision you've made?

In December last year, I was curating an exhibition of Indigenous artists and made a quick trip to Brisbane.

The head of the Aboriginal Art School showed us work by a young artist, Kyra Mancktelow, and asked if I would be interested in supporting a young artist. I bought a piece of her art. Since then she has won an emerging artists award and other awards, she's been picked up by a new gallery, and her works have increased tenfold.

It doesn't cost much to back someone that's emerging. Buy something you love - just the things that touch you if you can afford it, and support artists and an idea. Supporting this artist allowed her to make other work.

I bought my apartment in the Sydney CBD in 2015 and that's also been a good investment.

What's the worst investment decision you've made?

Not buying more works by artists at affordable prices. I've been lucky in my career - I've had nearly 30 years of relationships with artists and so many have been my peers. I could have afforded their work but I flinched.

There were a lot that got away. Moments I should have said yes, but that frugal gene kicked in and I should have been more ambitious. I've never regretted buying an artwork.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

Experiences. I love travel and experiencing food and different cultures, festivals, and exhibitions. I also love investing in things that invest money back into people who create. I love the experience of the unpredictable.

Again, it's not how much you spend - it's spending it in a way that provides an opportunity or something unexpected. I love knowing I've bought tickets to see something and I don't know what's going to happen. Even if I don't like it, I don't care - it's given me an experience that can't be taken away.

If you had $10,000 where would you invest it?

Art. In my sector I made sure I worked with artists across Asia, Pakistan, Tibet, Vietnam, Aboriginal. Try and advocate for artists emerging through their life.

I advocate for artists to lead the market. Australian art collectors can visit commercial galleries, not-for-profits, graduations to buy art to create wealth in terms of cultivating your own understanding.

What would you do if you only had $50 left in the bank?

I would pay for my mobile phone and a full tank of petrol and hit the road and get on the hustings and make some money.

I would be promoting, agitating, and cultivating opportunities for collaborations to turn $50 into $100, then $500 and $1000. You can always rebuild.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

I've never had the idea of cultivating investments to accrue great wealth but I have built a level of stability for children and godchildren, and a great collection of art with details on what is going to whom and why.

The legacy is in my collection - some will also go to museums and institutions and some to those I love most.

What's been your best money-making career move?

To understand early, as a curator in the public sphere, that a lot of benefactors and patrons to the arts are not obliged to do what they do. They should be seen as collaborators. One of the best moves was understanding collectors and the psychology of why people buy what they do - what they do and don't respond to.

A level of collaboration and support to communities has to be respectful. Since 2013, I've raised $38 million and I've been able to do that because I don't feel entitled. Philanthropists and benefactors go on a great journey and it's by having strong reciprocal relationships that it succeeds. Some of my best supporters have been those I met working in my 20s in commercial galleries.

Finish this sentence: money makes...

...a great firestarter. Money that people invest gives opportunity to artists to catch fire in a broader sense.

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Julia Newbould is the managing editor of Money magazine and is one of the hosts of the Friends With Money podcast. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.