Arianna Nourse, whose passion is connecting art and people, has started a new trend in luxury living by weaving art and culture into the very fabric of Southbank Tower. Working with Southbank Tower, which rising 151m keeps a watchful eye over the bustling River Thames and sits alongside the titans of the South Bank’s cultural hubs – Tate, National Theatre, South Bank Centre - Arianna will be creating a new art haven for residents.
Fresh from curating an eclectic art collection for the Tower’s Furnished by Armani/Casa apartment, Arianna will be also be supporting Southbank Tower’s cultural programme, which anchored by The Old Vic, will create an exclusive cultural experience for residents. Residents looking to find art that speaks for them and their homes, will also get access to a free consultation from Arianna. We met with Arianna to understand how art can impact your living environment.
What exactly is an art adviser?
Many people ask what an art adviser does and the simplest answer is that I connect clients to artworks that enrich their lives. Some clients are long-term collectors, and I help as a sounding board for purchases they’re considering, and to identify works which they haven’t seen previously. I negotiate discounts for them and arrange shipping, framing, insurance and installation as required. For busy clients, who run companies or their own brands, I serve as their one point of contact for art needs, so they’re not bombarded directly with works on offer and subsequent questions from dealers or shippers.
Other clients are brand new to acquiring pieces, and are possibly only looking for 1-2 works for a wall at home. In this instance, we spend a lot of time looking at works together, in person, and via Whatsapp and email, and literature. I ask them to recall any works they’ve liked in the past, say in a museum, and we work on honing their interests for sometime before they usually transact.
How did you get your start?
I grew up with an appreciation of art – my mother runs an expressive arts programme in San Francisco and was a sculptor, and I went to museums regularly as a child. That said, I thought that I would become a criminal defence attorney until I took a required art history class at Columbia University, where I studied in New York. I quickly switched majors, secured an internship at a gallery, and even got to study connoisseurship at the Metropolitan Museum on Mondays, when it was at the time closed to the public. Soon after graduating I began an internship at Phillips, an auction house specialised in contemporary art and culture. I was hired in their New York office and 1.5 years later relocated to their European headquarters in London, where I helped to open a department devoted to cross-disciplinary sales of contemporary art, photography, editions and design, geared for younger collectors at price point of under $25,000 per object. After seven years at Phillips, I left to become an art adviser – which brings us to today.
How did you approach the curation of the Furnished by Armani/Casa apartment?
This was really a dream project in that I had near total freedom in acquiring works for the apartment. Our chief goal was to create an art environment that spoke to the space itself, its location in the South Bank and within London, a mecca for diverse art voices. So there are works here that are, if not site-specific, at least site-informed. We have a large Antony Gormley lithograph in the study, a nod to both his exhibition at the Royal Academy and his local gallery in Bermondsey. We have a Brian Bress video work called Cloud Clouds, which ties in with the apartment’s 30th floor location. We have commissioned ceramics by London-born sculptor/performer Phoebe Collings-James, but also from further afield ,drawings by the Burkinabe/New Yorker Sanou Oumar, and a woven tapestry rich with meaning by Igshaan Adams, from Cape Town. It felt important to acknowledge London as an international, cultural hub, and I consciously sought a range of artistic visions, though most works were acquired via London galleries, in part to support the local arts economy.
What is the importance of art and culture in the home?
The importance of art and culture in the home can be overt – we can spend time reflecting on a painting or photograph, which might calm or provoke us. Though very importantly, art also can provide a more subtle grounding and a centring function even when we don’t spend the time looking at it in depth. If we can surround ourselves with works that speak to us specifically, these pieces will seep into our daily lives and provide underlying inspiration, however unconsciously. I would say the opposite is true if one is living with works that don’t really appeal: they can leave us with a slightly unsettled feeling that we can’t quite put our fingers on.
What is your advice on finding art you love and knowing what works in the spaces you call home?
We must be open to risk and change, when we start to buy art. We might love a work for years and then later marvel at how we could ever have liked it at all - and that’s ok. Our tastes are allowed to shift with time and education. Some buyers worry about whether a work will make money for them in the future, or at least hold its value long term, and their fear of the financials will start to affect their eye. I try to help my clients make informed fiscal decisions while also teasing out aesthetic passions that might not be “trendy,” and that involves a lot of looking – at books, articles, catalogues, exhibitions, and links and jpgs that I send regularly.
What do you hope to achieve in your relationship with Southbank Tower and the role of art adviser to the building and its residents?
With Southbank Tower, we seek to imbue art to the everyday lives of residents. Part of that will involve bringing talks on collecting into the tower, and then separately, moving with a small group of residents through London. Whether that is a walk through the arts spaces of Bermondsey or Peckham, or a tour of Frieze fair in the fall, our two-fold goal is education and conversation. The other side of my role is to meet with residents to shape their individual art—at-home plans, and find tangible ways of bringing art into their apartments.
Why Southbank Tower?
The residents of Southbank Tower lead very full lives and already take great advantage of London’s offerings. They hold museum and theatre memberships, travel widely to historical gardens and properties, and may be further embedded in communities abroad. That means that I have just as much to learn from them as they from me; tapping the collective resources of the community, we will hold enriching events that are in part resident-led. The hope is for one to actually know one’s neighbours - unique in a big city where anonymity often defines our daily lives.
This programme launched at the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, how is this shaping your involvement?
The current pandemic has upended all our lives. If we are fortunate enough not to be affected medically, we will no doubt be touched in other ways both frightening and unknown. Many of us have found great solace in using Whatsapp, FaceTime, Instagram, Zoom, Houseparty and myriad other apps to come together virtually during an otherwise lonely collective moment. Within the art business, most galleries have pivoted to some sort of virtual exhibition mode, and one interesting company in particular is rolling out an AR and VR system to view art at home over the next month or so. I look forward to continuing to engage with the Southbank Tower residents virtually, and will point you toward the evolving trends in the art community, and inspiring art practices. Art and culture are a particularly vital vector for escape and inspiration when our worlds have all been made much, much smaller overnight.
What or who inspires you?
Oh wow – well at the moment, as I write from an isolated location, I am getting much from virtual studio visits. Artists have opened-up their studios on Instagram Live: one watches them walk through their works-in-progress and can even ask questions about their process. It is a way of remaining part of a community and fostering dialogue through this difficult period. Like many people, I have also found joy in dropping into DJ D-Nice’s Club Quarantine [also on Instagram Live]. You can see who else is in the virtual party and know that your friends all over the world are all listening at the same time. Anything that makes me feel more connected is very inspiring at the moment!
Southbank Tower is one of London’s most prominent riverside luxury developments. A boutique collection of apartments are now available to purchase and were relaunched in 2020 with a series of new initiatives. This includes apartments ‘Furnished by Armani/Casa’ which sees art and design work to create a beguiling living experience. Alongside this, the residential experience was enhanced through a cultural programme led by The Old Vic and supported by Arianna Nourse, which will be offering experiences not found in any other London residential location.