Something I've been trying to do more of on my blog is to have interviews with interesting people working in the art industry. My colleague, Sihame Bouhout, is an art authenticator and curator. She's authenticated hundreds of art objects from all over the world, and works with art galleries, museums and auction houses in London, Paris, New York and Geneva. She's curated shows in Paris and New York and has an incredible track record assisting young artists in their first exhibitions. The breadth of her experiences-- and her unique background as an authenticator AND curator-- has helped her develop an extensive knowledge about art and its complicated relationship to the marketplace. Her expertise encompasses both contemporary art and antiquities, which makes her a go-to art consultant for numerous important clients. She lives in New York City.
● How did you become an art authenticator and curator?
The company I am working for was looking for someone who had a strong knowledge in art history, business development and science. This person does not exist, so they made the candidates pass some tests. I was the most successful. I then followed an intensive training and started to work. It is a very unique job, so there is no degree for it; I am the only one doing it in the US.
My parents were friends with a lot of art dealers and artists in France and that offered me the opportunity to be exposed to art from a very young age. And as a family, we always go to museums and enjoy looking at art together. When I was growing up, I had the chance to do some internships in art galleries. All of those experiences helped me to develop a strong knowledge in art history. I then naturally transitioned from those internships to curating exhibitions.
● The two professions seem related but also appear to demand very different skill sets. What is the most important overarching skill to be a great curator and great authenticator?
The two complete each other in my opinion. When I am the authenticator, I have to use very technical and rational skills, but then I am able to express my creativity as a curator. I do not feel any competition to be a great curator, but I will say you need to know the market but then then free yourself from it. You just want to know in what kind of environment you evolve and then offer something different.
● As a curator, what do you feel is the most difficult aspect of the job? What is the most exciting show you’ve ever worked on?
When I am a curator, I am telling a story that is not written, that will be free of interpretation. So the most challenging part is to be simple, not in a non-intelligent way. I guess the right word I am looking for is “accessible”. I like when people leave the show and have a lot of questions and yet understand my story, even in their own way.
I think the most exciting shows are to come-- I gained experiences those past years and I now I'm asking myself more interesting questions.
● As an art authenticator, what is the greatest or most important art object you’ve handled?
It is an interesting question because it is a very recurrent one: the relation with art and its value or importance. I don’t have a relation like that when I authenticate because I have to manipulate, touch the objects a lot. I don’t want to be impressed because it will be stressful which can lead to mistakes. So when I analyze an object, I disconnect and stay in the moment looking for clues.
But I can tell you that one of my favorite objects was a piece shaped like a monkey that was supposed to be Pre-Columbian, and it end up being fake. But I loved it; it was one of the best fakes I’ve seen.