Style File: Elena Soboleva

 

Soboleva, immersed in a Jon Rafman VR piece at Frieze London
Soboleva, immersed in a Jon Rafman VR piece at Frieze London

Elena Soboleva’s fascination with art started when she first encountered Henri Matisse’s brightly coloured paintings “Music” and “Dance,” housed at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she was born. As a child, Soboleva would visit the works with her parents and marvel at the power that such simple pieces could hold. Though she was born into a family of scientists, her parents fostered the fascination for art that began to flicker inside her. Eventually, that interest grew to influence every important decision in her life.

Soboleva moved to Canada at the age of seven in 1993, and by the time she entered the University of Toronto to study art history and economics, art was her everything. She founded the Trinity College art show, interned at Christie’s Auctions and Private Sales and worked at Toronto’s Georgia Scherman Projects. Later, she completed a master’s degree and moved to New York City to work at the well-respected Jack Shainman Gallery, while also writing for the Art Market Monitor, an online industry publication. “I had little time for anything else, but all of these projects allowed me to see the many facets of the art world,” she says. “That was important for me—to see as much as possible, to do as much possible. The thirst to constantly be learning and looking at art is what’s always driving me.”

Now, at age 30, Soboleva is a vibrant, stylish New Yorker (just check out her art and fashion–heavy Instagram account @elenasoboleva and tell us you don’t want her life, and her wardrobe). She’s also head of special projects at Artsy.net, a website that aims to make art accessible by compiling pieces from major galleries, museums, art fairs and auctions in an online database. Her role? To advise top-tier collectors and create site-specific art installations around the world that bring Artsy to life in the offline space.

When she joined the fledgling startup four years ago, the site was still in beta testing, but she felt it was time to take a risk in her career. “People warned me,” she says. “They’d say, you’re going from a great gallery to a startup that’s not even launched yet. But I realized that what was going to be significant with art in my generation was shifting into the online sphere and that would be transformative within the art world.” Now Artsy has a staff of 150 people, works with around 70 art fairs and creates Facebook Live video tours that garner over 130,000 views each.

Soboleva’s ability to take risks makes her busy life ever varied, but it’s her all-consuming devotion to art that makes it sustainable. With an average seven-day work week packed with studio visits, meetings, gallery openings, museum tours and trips to art fairs around the world (she visited over 35 last year including Frieze London and Art Basel in Switzerland), Soboleva doesn’t have a lot of time left over for a personal life. “My career is a complete work/life integration,” she says. “It’s not about trying to balance the two. It’s about pursuing something that you love.”

On living in New York:

“I love same-day delivery. You can get everything from new boots to quinoa at 2 a.m.”

On weekend plans:

“Even though my weekends are still very art-focused, it’s nice to be able to do yoga or walk the High Line. Chelsea Market is also close to me, so I go there and find the most seasonal ingredients and cook up something.”

On her dream art piece:

“An Agnes Martin from the late ’60s. A lot of artwork right now is spectacular and loud, and I can enjoy and embrace that, but there’s an absolute stillness and contemplation in her work. There’s so much that goes into a canvas that’s perfectly composed.”

 

Agnes Martin, Gratitude, 2001
Agnes Martin, Gratitude, 2001

On current art trends:

“Right now there’s a rise in female artists, especially strong figurative painters and digital artists. One name is the Guerrilla Girls. It’s an anonymous collective and the women wear gorilla masks. They’ve been around since the ’80s, making artwork that highlights the discrimination of women in museums, and finally people are starting to embrace the message.”

On her favourite museums and galleries:

“Go to the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg for the avant-garde masters, PS1 in New York for the contemporary scene, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa for a fantastic collection of post-war Canadian art, Marfa [in Texas] for the whole town as an art experience, Xavier Hufkens in Brussels for the best gallery space and Inhotim in Brazil for the most exotic art destination.”

Prada Marfa, Texas
Prada Marfa, Texas
Soboleva with a Helio Oiticica piece at Inhotim Art Centre, Brazil
Soboleva with a Helio Oiticica piece at Inhotim Art Centre, Brazil

On what she’s coveting:

Celine’s latest collection, with art inspired by Yves Klein. Beauty!”

On her beauty go-tos:

“I use Dior Crème de Rose Smoothing Plumping Lip Balm for a soft pout, Bobbi Brown liquid liners and cream shadow sticks for perfect eyes, RMS Beauty Living Luminizer for a glow, plus Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum and Beauty Elixir, Jin Soon nail polish and Frederic Malle Lys Mediterranee fragrance.”

Dior Crème de Rose
Dior Crème de Rose

On her must-follow travel tips:

“I don’t wear makeup on the plane and I apply a light hydrating mask in the last half hour. I pack fabrics that don’t wrinkle, swapping out silks for Pink Tartan power-stretch dresses and Issey Miyake pleats, and I rely on Glamsquad or any of the multitude of to-your-door beauty apps to order a blowout. I also bring portable wi-fi wherever I go. It’s a lifesaver when traveling abroad.”

On visiting New York:

“Stop at Opening Ceremony in Soho for unique fashion finds and The Blond for cocktails with an old-school-glam vibe.”

On her favourite travel destinations:

“I went to Black Rock City, Nevada, for Burning Man for the first time this year and it was amazing! Then there’s Venice, which holds the Art Biennale every two years and brings together the best of the art world.”

 

Soboleva at Burning Man
Soboleva at Burning Man

 

Soboleva at the Venice Biennale
Soboleva at the Venice Biennale

Her fave Instagram accounts:

@diaartfoundation

@artsy

@petrafcollins

@vajiajia

A standout piece in her wardrobe:

“Altuzarra over-the-knee leather boots.”

Altuzarra Callie Thigh High Boot
Altuzarra Callie Thigh High Boot
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