Welcome to the latest instalment in our series of Member Profiles, where we get to know our Contemporaries a little better. This week we would like to introduce Steve Preston, a technology marketing professional who has served on the board of arts organisation Brand X and has a strong interest in supporting emerging artists and new forms of art.
I never had any formal or structured learning about art, I just gradually developed an appreciation. I grew up in the country in rural New York State, where there weren’t a lot of galleries or opportunities to engage with art.
“For me it started in Boston, and took off when I lived in Madrid as a student in around 2000. That was where I really started to wake up to the world of European art and history, and to gain an appreciation for the scale of creativity that was out there, particularly with the Spanish Masters.”
My favourite place to visit was the Reina Sofia. I would go there during the day between classes and wander around, sometimes just for five minutes to check out one part of it.
Steve (middle) with Rebecca Gallo (left) and Doug Lindsay at Tamara Dean’s ‘About Face’ series premiere.
My partner is Australian. We met in Boston and gradually moved from the east to the west coast, lived in San Francisco and then moved to Australia about eight years ago. I love living here, and became a citizen as quickly as I could. There’s a good quality of life, a good climate and great people.
A significant part of my renewed interest in the arts has come from my time with Brand X. Occasionally you come across a launching pad into a new world, and Brand X was definitely one of those for me. After I had been in Sydney for a couple of years, I wanted to be exposed to new people and a different side of the city. I started giving marketing advice for Brand X, and then they asked me to join the board. I served on the board for four years. I am interested in what’s next, so at the appropriate time, we’ll see what comes up.
I run marketing for South Asia for a company called Akamai. I’ve been in technology marketing my whole career, and have found myself halfway around the world from where I started, but doing roughly the same thing.
If I had $5,000 to spend on art, I would try to acquire a John Bartley painting from Watters Gallery. I’ve loved his work ever since I first saw it there a few years ago, and every time I go to Watters I go into the stockroom to check out his paintings. I would also try to buy some sort of digital or online-based work.
“I am quite intrigued by artists that are using different platforms to raise money to create new kinds of art. I would look to support that trend of applying different sciences and technologies to the creative world.”
I would also get a consulting session with Juliet [Rosser] from Platform72. I struggle when I have a blank canvas, piece of paper or wall, but I find if someone gives me a starting point, I know very quickly if it’s going to go somewhere or not. Juliet takes a brief and then brings a bunch of work to your house so that you can see what works.
I like that Contemporaries is really thoughtful in terms of curating and developing experiences that are quite unique. They’re informative without being prescriptive or too lofty. The combination of art, usually wine, and some conversation, is definitely my cup of tea, and the events provide a space to ask tons of questions to artists, gallery owners and collectors.
I really enjoyed the Biennale tour in March. That was just a great Sydney day. I usually hate guided tours, so the fact that I was truly engaged by the two guides is telling. They had a really interesting way of explaining the artist and the work, with real depth and perspective. Some of the pieces had a totally different meaning and significance for me after listening to them. It was also a really good event to meet people that are likeminded. I think it would be great to have an online forum where we can continue these conversations about the art after the event.