At 40, already a hyphenate, mother-art consultant-business owner, Lydia Kutko is cut out for the big time as she builds her art empire. This Madison, Wisconsin native, turned New Yorker, went to the Big Apple with an art history undergraduate degree. She jumped into a master’s program at the Fashion Institute of Technology and her journey continued during her internship for the global “domestic doyenne”—author, entertainer, and business woman—Martha Stewart.
While working for America’s first self-made female billionaire was not for the faint of heart, Kutko reveled in the role as she built sets, staged product demonstrations, and created holiday table settings.
“As I learned the basis of prop styling and beauty shots, what I appreciated first hand is that Martha’s eye for display is impeccable,” says Kutko.
During that time, Kutko also learned to trust her instincts, including when she saw a gap in the art consulting world. She fused her art education, sense of style, and her jet fuel—her passion—to launch an art consultancy.
“I knew how to read an artist’s CV and gauge if this was the right artist to invest in, or love. As a natural negotiator, I prided myself on repping clients’ best interests, while being respectful to the galleries and artists we partnered with,” says Kutko.
“Part of my goal was to remove the real, or perceived snobbery out of art. I wanted to make art, its acquisition and appreciation more about access and valued relationships rather than a club that only a select few could be a part of.”
Today, her firm, LK Art Consultants, “brings exceptional artwork and installations into homes, offices, galleries, commercial, residential, and public spaces.”
“It doesn’t matter if the art is $5K or $500K, my goal is to make the buying and living with art relatable and fun,” she continues. “To that end, energy and purpose have inspired the great team we have today.”
A focus of the work of LK Art Consultants involves curating collections at international art shows, including Art Basel at Miami Beach, Hong Kong, Paris, and Basel.
“Following contemporary art around the world is a big part of our business. It’s where we see the new, breakthrough ideas punch out and where those concepts of five to ten plus years ago become increasingly more relevant to our business and our clients,” says Kutko.
“Galleries launch focused selections highlighting an ‘under the radar’ artist or show a solo booth of an exciting body of work by a global favorite but surprise us with something we’d never expect. It’s intoxicating to be part of the fun, exciting, intense, frenzied, and even meditative conversations about what will be on the fair floor weeks before we arrive. It’s how we trace the significance of art we’ve been eyeing, and how we add value by placing these artists in new collectors’ hands,” she continues.
“Fairs are a cross between culture, work, and commerce. The circuit swings anywhere from LA to Mexico City, London to Paris, Seoul to New York. At LK Art Consultants, we visit on average one to two fairs a month.”
“The sequential nature of the back-to-back fair schedule offers new connections in a relatively short period of time. You see the same artist at one fair the month before, but the gallery brings a very different piece the following month to a different market. The takeaway is the unique positioning of an artist from market to market, a result of stacked feedback from conversations amongst galleries, institutions, critics, consultants, and collectors,” says Kutko.
“Art Basel is the seriously epic art fair with the party vibe. The art is for sale and the sentiment is ready-to-purchase, see the best and be seen with it. Art Basel Miami started in 2002, and we’ve been attending since 2006. It is a very different experience than Art Basel Switzerland where the turnout is more a studied European client, with the best galleries in the world showing up to bring focus to their program on an international scale.”
“Art Basel Miami punctuates the fair circuit with a contemporary art highlight reel and a few dark horses that wind up surprising the crowds. But the thrill at Art Basel is checking out NADA (New Art Dealers Association), a collector-collectors and dealers-dealer fair where the art, galleries, and conversations make you realize why art is an addiction. The fairs running alongside the main fair are where we find gems,” shares Kutko.
“My advice for anyone, particularly someone new to shows, is to absorb and determine for yourself if you like what you’re looking at, who you’re talking to and what perspectives it will offer. To that end, these institutional fairs have done a pretty solid job of bringing in the critically important emerging conversations in art, not just through panel discussions but through the exhibition format.”
In terms of her work in Barrington, Kutko says it is her relationships with clients that is key. “We listen and we bring the best. We solve ‘over the sofa’ problems and ‘wall boredom’ in a creative way. We bring the most evolving, relevant contemporary art and keep the conversation relatable.”
“Our process involves a first meeting where we explain that our focus is on the buyer. Then we schedule a site visit to measure and evaluate the client and the space, which then leads to a first round of images with multiple curations. Those are refined by gallery, fair, virtual, and in-person visits,” she says. “The collaboration leads to selecting pieces, negotiating, shipping, and installing.”
Kutko develops trust with her clients, a fundamental part of the process. “As a firm we focus on education. We love art and the people who do the hard and rewarding work of making art a necessity in our lives.”
“Our gallery is a great place to engage and has accelerated the pace of conversations around new artists. We’ve opened our doors to bring knowledge of the global art market to this incredible community and to enhance existing collections and start new ones.”
“Our driving quest every day is to get a new artist onto every wall in Barrington, the North Shore, and greater Chicagoland,” Kutko says.
For more information, visit lkartconsultants.com.