art collection

Meet Our New Team Member: Brontë Mansfield

Brontë Mansfield.jpeg

At the start of the New Year, Brontë joined the DeGroot Fine Art team as a Project Assistant, focusing on marketing for new projects. Here’s how Brontë came to the art world and our company:

In 2010, Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei unveiled a new installation at Tate Modern in London. The installation, Kui Hua Zi, spread 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds over the floor of a single gallery. Each seed–every one of the hundred million–was shaped, fired, and painted by hand. It took over a thousand workers in a Chinese town more than two years to produce all of the seeds.

And there I was, 17 years old and standing in front of all of those seeds, the first time I set foot in an art museum. If I had scooped up a hundred of the porcelain seeds in my hands, I would have held more seeds than there were people in my hometown in rural Wisconsin. Another handful and that would probably be more than all of the people I had met in my life.

After years of cornfields and football, I did not know what to do with myself in a bustling foreign city. But then I found subways, coffee shops, bookstores, and–mostly importantly–all of the free art museums in the city. Even at seventeen, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life around art.

I returned to the states to go to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a freshman, I was hired as an assistant to the Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Chazen Museum of Art. One of my first days at the museum, I was tasked with helping reframe a six-foot-long ink drawing by another famed Chinese artist, Xu Bing. I am proud to say that I didn't buckle under the high pressure and have been professionally handling art ever since.

During my time at University of Wisconsin-Madison, I specialized in Victorian art history and literature, writing my thesis on nineteenth-century paintings of mermaids and Darwinian theories of evolution–but also wrote for the school newspaper and worked as an editor at the campus magazine. In 2014, I was awarded a Beinecke Scholarship to study at the graduate school of my choice. I decided to leave academia and pursue journalism, to help share stories of art and culture to as many people as I could.

In 2017, I received my Masters in New Arts Journalism from School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). During graduate school, I worked in the school's Marketing & Communications department and was also asked to assistant teach a class on contemporary art history. Even though the art I knew best was made before the Titanic sank, I threw myself into the world of modern and contemporary art–and even started working as a studio manager for a Chicago-based artist.

During graduate school, I focused on audio production and storytelling. In addition to my work as a freelance audio producer, I have worked as a production & recording assistant for the Art Institute of Chicago and recently joined the faculty at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, teaching podcasting and video essays.

I am thrilled to be able to merge my background in both fine art and journalism in my new role as Project Assistant at DeGroot Fine Art. I look forward to sharing more stories from the world of art consulting with our clients and anyone interested in collecting, preserving, and supporting fine art.

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Two Years & Counting

Elvis Two Times by Andy Warhol

Elvis Two Times by Andy Warhol

I've long been fascinated with the idea of twinning. As a child I paired things together into grand collections, making an ark of my belongings. Many years later in an art history graduate course, I was asked by my teacher to bring something to class that represented duality. The next day I came toting my Elvis Presley rubber stamp. The king was a twin in real life, but this trinket also carried a double meaning: allowing for endless impressions of his likeness, each similar but not exactly the same.

Last week marked the second year of our business and with it came a timely reminder that even things that appear identical are often full of nuances that make them empirically different. Our first year felt fresh and exhilarating, with nowhere to go but up. We were charged with the firsts of everything: clients, contracts, cold calls, and even robocalls were a delight as it was all brand new. During this time we built an incredible stable of corporate and private clients; we grew as a company and as individuals. We seamlessly supported our clients with elite vendors in the business of art handling, conservation, and framing through varied art-related circumstances. 

It is only in the second year, however, that comparisons could fairly to be made. Year two was steady and strong, with lessons along the way. We found a natural ebb and flow, learning more about the many challenges that face ourselves and our clients. The most exciting part of this second year has truly been facing these hurtles and finding their solutions. At the core of art consulting, is a quest for solutions -- often artful and inspiring, but at times a matter of logistics or simple perseverance. 

In this past year I traveled to the Netherlands to get inspired by their grand art institutions and shared my findings through our social media platforms. The company traveled to Colorado to hang art in a newly renovated lobby. These trips to the area allowed us to connect with Denver’s local art community. We also brought New York to Chicago, by coordinating a pop-up show in one of our rotating exhibitions. In town, we facilitated an artwork showcase for an important business conference and helped companies with their construction project logistics: moving, storing and reinstalling artwork. These are just a few of the many jobs that are bolstered by our many experiences connecting with artists at their studios and attending gallery openings.

These years have hardly been identical, but our team looks forward to making our mark again and again. Each additional year of art advising will hopefully bring with it a new series of fine art challenges and triumphs. I often remark on how great it is that no two days are the same in this line of work, but it doesn't keep me from gathering them up in my mind and cataloging what we learned for future use. A collector at heart, I’ve learned more is better when it comes to both art and experience.

It is with tremendous gratitude that we enter our third year, knowing we couldn't have done it without our surrounding community. We hope to continue to support local artists and galleries as we grow together, finding creative solutions for corporations that nourish all those involved. We will come armed with our tools and our lessons learned, ready to handle all your art related requests with meter and care because in the words of his royal highness, “Wise men say only fools rush in.”

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