"There’s a saying: ‘Choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’ and I really feel that about what I do,” says the glamorous art dealer and mother Georgina Cohen...
Her work takes her around the world, building art collections for private clients for Gagosian, the world’s leading commercial art gallery. She’s also a contributing editor at PORTER and Baby London magazine and an ambassador for 3.1 Phillip Lim and Bamford. “I feel very lucky to work with such talented artists and be surrounded by beautiful art. There are lots of opportunities for me to travel, I am in an environment where I can continue to learn and grow, which is rare to find in a job. I work with amazing people both in the gallery and also my clients – many of whom are friends. I really enjoy meeting new people and being exposed to different things and I’m in a job, which allows me to do that continuously,” she says. Were Cohen’s life to be captured on a blank canvas, the result would invariably be a Turner prize-winner. Blessed with a beautiful family, she lives in London with her husband and adorable son Caleb, who is 20 months old. “We have a blank canvas in life – we can make ourselves as successful as we want to be. If you are positive, it brings positivity,” she says. A love of art runs in the Cohen family. She grew up in Cheshire, in the picturesque countryside in the North of England. “It was a calm, fun and happy time,” she recalls. And there was always art in their lives. “We were immersed into the art world from a very early age. We travelled a lot as a family and went on some fantastic trips around the world and art would always play a part in everything we did. We’d go to Venice for the Biennale, New York and visit the Guggenheim and the MoMA, Florence to the Uffizi Gallery and also more locally with trips to Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. I think that being around art, you unconsciously pick up things and become inspired by your surroundings,” says Cohen. Her father is the renowned art collector Frank Cohen, who recently collaborated with Fortnum & Mason department store in London with an incredible exhibition of more than 72 works of art from his Modern British collection called Fortnum’s X Frank. She describes her family as “very grounded” adding that her parents “always taught us the value of things”. We couldn’t wait to find out more about her thoughts on motherhood, style, a happy marriage and how everyone can build an art collection of their own. Words: Claire Brayford | Photography: Lauren Michelle
Can you talk us through your career?
I have always grown up surrounded by art and studied fine art at university, so that would have been the natural course for me, but my passion at that time was in television. I wanted to work in broadcasting and after graduating, I was offered a job at Granada (ITV) in Manchester. I did that for a number of years, then went onto producing TV commercials for an advertising agency, which took me to London. I decided to take a job in public relations, as I thought it would be a good way to meet new people – specialising in PR and special events. My brother studied art and went to work in the art industry, he was hired by Gagosian Gallery 12 years ago to work in one of their galleries in New York, a year later Larry approached me to join the gallery in London. I continued doing PR and special projects for the gallery and later moved into helping clients building their collections, which is my primary focus now.
Do you collect art yourself? Tell us about some of your most cherished pieces...
Yes I am a young collector – I’m in a different bracket to the gallery’s clients but I know what I like. A good ten years ago I bought a piece by Helen Marten who has just won the Turner prize. She was not as established as she is now – I was thrilled when I found out. I’m friendly with a lot of artists. I like to support them and I’m very fortunate that a few of them have gifted me some pieces along the way. The most fabulous was when Damien Hirst gave me a spin painting as a thank you for something, which I was completely blown away by.
Who are your favourite artists?
That’s quite a difficult one to answer as I love so many but I find what makes an artist appealing is often more than just the work itself. When you do a studio visit you get an insight into the person and their story, and it makes the artist and their work more desirable. I love Edmund de Waal’s work and I’m a huge fan of Damien Hirst, he is a friend and I think he is one of the greatest living artists. I love Gerhard Richter. I also love modern British painters such as Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff.
Which exhibitions coming up should we not miss?
Robert Rauschenberg, which is incredible and on at the Tate Modern now. Richard Serra, at the Gagosian Gallery in King’s Cross showing until mid-March and in April we are opening a monumental Picasso show at our Mayfair Grosvenor Hill space – not to be missed!
Do you have any tips on how everyone can add art to their home?
I think it’s really important to buy what you love because unless it’s purely for investment, you’re going to be living with it. If you have a certain budget you can be smart and go to young galleries, check on artnet.com and find out if an artist has a record. Prints by artists you like are also a good affordable way to begin your collection. You need to go to shows, look on the internet and educate yourself, everyone can learn.
What advice would you give to young women starting out in the art world?
We all have to start somewhere and you need to be prepared to work hard. My father came from nothing and built up his own business and both my parents always taught us the value of money and to always have a strong work ethic. I started my career doing work experience and making tea. I think the most important thing is to maintain a positive attitude, persevere, be conscientious, think on your feet and use your initiative then hopefully you will get to where you want to go.
How did you become a contributing editor at PORTER magazine?
When the magazine started, I was friendly with their features editor and she invited me to become a contributing editor where I could put forward ideas and facilitate stories in the arts/lifestyle area. PORTER is really about embracing and empowering fabulous, fierce successful women – and I am all about that. I am also a contributing editor for Baby London magazine. I was very flattered when they approached me. I am passionate about being a mother and feel I have a voice so it will be great to be able to share some ideas/stories that can be featured in the magazine.
What did your mum teach you about life, style and motherhood?
My mum taught me everything, she has been the biggest influence on how I am both as a wife and a mother and always raised us to understand which values were important. Until you have your own child, you don’t realise what a difficult job being a mother is. I have such respect for all the amazing mothers out there. She is also the most stylish woman I know. She owns a luxury fashion boutique and we have many designers who are friends, so fashion has always been a major influence and she’s helped my signature style. She’s an incredible mother, kind, warm and generous. She worked while my brother and I were growing up. She was still around all the time and it didn’t affect us – if it made her happy, it made us happy. It was important for her to have something for herself and I feel the same. I really love working – it gives me confidence and a sense of value in a different way to that of being a mother.
How would you describe your parenting style?
Firm but fair. I think that structure is incredibly important. It makes a child feel confident – they know the routine and they know what’s coming next. From the beginning I made sure I had good people around to guide me – I was very fortunate to find both a good maternity nurse and nanny who helped ensure Caleb was in a good routine.
What has been the most challenging part of motherhood?
I think finding time for yourself. We’ve just come back from a week away just the two of us – we missed Caleb terribly but it was wonderful to get away and spend time together as a couple, recharge and have some uninterrupted sleep! The other challenge is trying not to worry too much. It’s in my nature to worry but this is definitely heightened by having another little person to take care of – it’s something I work on every day and my husband is the opposite so he is a good balance for me.
How did you meet your husband?
To say the past couple of years have been a bit of a whirlwind is putting it mildly. I was introduced to my husband through a mutual friend. Five months after first meeting we became engaged, six months later we were married and then a few months later, much to my delight we fell pregnant. We met a bit later in life but he was definitely worth the wait. My friends always said to me: ‘when you meet the right person you’ll just know’ and they were right – I sent a message to my mum on our second date to say it might be premature and I probably shouldn’t say it but I’d met the man I was going to marry and she kept that message and read it out in her speech at our wedding. Jonathan is the most fantastic husband and father – I feel very blessed.
“ We have a blank canvas in life - we can make ourselves as successful as we want to be ”
What is the secret to a successful marriage after children?
It’s important to remember to make time for each other as a couple (a date night once a week) and a bit of romance, but also to allow each other your own time and space in addition to spending quality time together as a family and to try to be supportive and thoughtful to each other.
Talk us through your morning schedule?
Jonathan loves to get up with Caleb and they have breakfast together – it’s a lovely bonding thing they have and then Caleb and I will read together, Caleb loves books. We will play some games until our nanny arrives at nine and then I get ready to leave for work.
What’s your approach to getting dressed each morning?
I’m fortunate in that I can wear what I want – but I have go-to wardrobe staples that I love and I mix those up with some different accessories but it’s always a similar type of look every day. I like to look smart and be comfortable. I love to wear a Celine tuxedo shirt with Rag & Bone jeans. Phillip Lim is one of my favourite designers and I act as a brand ambassador for him – he has pretty but cool clothes that don’t try too hard. They are effortlessly chic and elegant and perfect for any occasion. I’d always rather buy good quality key pieces rather than a lot of things that I’d never wear. With accessories I like simplicity. I have a few Celine cross-body bags in different colours and for jewellery I love anything by Monique Pean – a lot of her collections are inspired by art and artists’ work, she is a friend and a real talent.
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing?
I love holistic therapies, especially acupuncture and reflexology. I have two amazing gurus I credit with helping me fall pregnant and getting my body into a place where I felt it was at its healthiest and who I still continue to see to maintain that healthy balance. In fact many people don’t discuss post-pregnancy enough and this is when I feel those therapies are even more beneficial in helping restore a healthy balance to the body and mind. Emma Cannon is one of London’s leading fertility acupuncturists – I see her for everything not just fertility and Dr Gowri Motha (founder of The Gentle Birth Method). I also think it is important to get as much exercise as you can, I do find it challenging to find the time so I walk wherever I can, I also try to get a good night’s sleep and avoid caffeine.
How did your career change after the birth of Caleb?
I went back to work when he was 10 months old. I had worked my whole life before that and waited until I was 39 to have a baby so I wanted to enjoy that time with him. When I returned to work I found I was more focused and productive. The days I was working mattered and I took advantage of every moment.
And finally what’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Faith is the uncertainty of things that we can’t control. I’m a bit of a control freak – as a mother and it’s just my personality, I like things done a certain way – but I’ve learnt that you can’t control everything in life, and for the things you can’t, you have to have faith.
Georgina’s little list of loves:
Cuddles with my son. My husband’s smile. Face Gym’s non-invasive facial massages and their bespoke blending oils. Bamford candles. The hot chocolate in the parlour at Fortnum & Mason. My Cultivist card. My Monique Pean fossilised Walrus Ivory ring. The Virry app where children play and learn with real animals, which I discovered on the site London’s Little Thinkers. And Peppa Pig. It’s not just for my son – I’m a fan too.