Cultured Magazine

June/July 2015

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130 CULTURED PRIVATE TICKET Two former Sotheby's associates, Marlies Verhoeven and Daisy Peat, turn their insider access and art world connections into The Cultivist, a concierge service for the collector set. BY BEE SHAPIRO PORTRAIT BY JASON SCHMIDT With a heavy-hitting slate of art events on the horizon—Venice Biennale, Art Basel and the Serpentine Gallery's summer gala, for starters— even the most seasoned collector can start to feel worse for the wear. Not only are there actual travel logistics to deal with, but to access the best, influential and new can be like ferreting out diamonds in the rough—exhaustive work that requires currying favors and mounds of research. That's what Marlies Verhoeven and Daisy Peat discovered during their years running Sotheby's VIP program in New York and London, respectively. About six years ago, the two founded the program as a way for the auction house to build relationships with its top collectors. "The art market is a little like the property market," says Verhoeven. "You don't sell a painting every day, just as you wouldn't sell a house every day. During those in-between times, we were interacting and trying to build a relationship—beyond selling." That meant courting those VIPs with plenty of chichi dates; invitations included a private tour of a special museum exhibition or a visit of an artist's studio. Soon enough, even big-time collectors were clamoring for the hot tickets, which was a surprise, Verhoeven says. "You'd think they wouldn't need our services, but they told us, 'This is easy. This way I don't have to call in any favors.'" Fast-forward a few years, and the duo has taken their experience (well, plus a few high-profile investors like financier Ronald Cohen) and decided to go indie. This summer, Verhoeven and Peat are launching The Cultivist, a global arts club with nifty perks. For the annual fee of $2,500, members will be able to cut the line and bring three guests to every visit at 100 top art institutions worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Modern and the Louvre. "For example, if you're talking about the Louvre, there are numerous entrances and it's a gigantic institution," Verhoeven says. "We can tell you exactly which entrance to go into and to see what. It makes the experience feel really accessible." Cultivist members will be able to gain access to the museum by entering through the VIP entrance at Passage Richelieu. Art nerds won't be disappointed either. With 24-hours notice, the club can set up members with local experts like Ph.D. art students who can lead personalized walking or gallery tours. The Cultivist is also currently developing an art travel app, Peat adds, which will deliver event information, gallery locations and advice, including tips from members on community-oriented boards. And though they don't have plans for a physical clubhouse anytime soon, Peat and Verhoeven kicked off the summer with a bang, having hosted several hot tickets at the Venice Biennale, including an intimate candlelit dinner with British sculptor Emily Young and a tea ceremony with artist Hiroshi Sugimoto at his Glass Tea House Mondrian pavilion. Surely, such select events will inspire plenty of hobnobbing, but Verhoeven and Peat are also happy to make introductions gratis. Maybe they'll introduce a San Francisco tech entrepreneur, "who was interested in art before, but was intimidated by the industry, to a gallery he might not have known of," Peat says. "But one thing we're clear on: We're not making anything off our members, except for the membership fee. It's purely a relationship thing. We're about access."

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