Do you remember the last time art surprised you? Now think about how it made you feel. That experience is precisely what Elizabeth Margulies is after: the wonder of discovering something unexpected.
Since launching her company at the start of the year, the 31-year-old art advisor has unveiled her largest project yet: a public installation at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 28th Street in Manhattan. There, massive reproductions of David Salle’s paintings Swamp Music and Solar System (both 2013) soar over the intersection, printed onto the scaffolding netting surrounding the McKim, Mead & White bank building under redevelopment and integrated into the fabric of the city. “You rarely see art like that,” Margulies says. “It’s the most beautiful scaffolding in the world.”
The images reach some 70 feet high and beneath them, two giant exhibition labels identify the works. It’s a nod to museum conventions, but for viewers, it’s a completely different experience, since, as Salle explains, “one encounters the paintings serendipitously, walking down the street. They’re just there—part of the urban landscape.”
The project is the result of six months of careful planning, and a hint of what’s to come on the site. Behind the scrim, renovation is underway on the first-ever property from Flâneur Hospitality, a new hotel brand set to debut in 2019, for which Margulies is currently building an art collection. With its focus on creating a cultural moment, the Flâneur project represents a new wave of semi-public spaces where art is as essential as impactful interior design and high-end amenities—a growing venue for art Margulies is especially suited to tap. “More and more developers are realizing that art creates cultural capital and sophistication,” says Margulies, who in previous roles worked with artists like Michael Craig-Martin and Kenny Scharf on public art projects and brand collaborations, and licensed reproductions of works by Jasper Johns and Frank Stella to appear on the television show Billions.
Though Margulies is hesitant to name names, the forthcoming Flâneur programming will be a physical reflection of her curatorial approach, with art everywhere from the lobby and restaurant to guest rooms. She imagines work by blue-chip names hanging next to site- specific commissions from emerging and overlooked voices: “a very diverse group of artists, different ethnicities, different races, different genders, people from all over the world,” she says. “I want everything to have a unique story and idea behind it. It’s this element of discovery, finding and learning new things. It’s more than meets the eye—you have to look closer.”
Though she’s only just branching out on her own as a consultant, the move seems natural for someone who has been advising friends on purchases for as long as she can remember. After all, her father is Martin Margulies, the Miami real estate developer and ARTnews “Top 200” collector, and she grew up surrounded by one of the world’s preeminent private collections.
“There was really no plan B” when it came to choosing art as a career, says the younger Margulies, who studied design at SVA before earning her master’s degree at Sotheby’s and doing a stint on a short- lived art-world reality show that she prefers to leave in the past. But the move that most clearly presaged her career was actually her father’s, who, two decades ago, opened the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse to the public in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District. “It was the first real example I saw of someone sharing their art with the world,” she says. And as Margulies develops her own approach for bringing art to the public realm, this idea has become something of her mission statement: “Art should be about inclusion, not exclusion.”