Brunswick Arts Director Claire Walsh recalls the stamp of Helen’s eccentricity—a flamboyant sense of style that simultaneously embraced diamonds, hair extensions and flip-flops—a spirit unquenched even in the last year of her life, as she was battling the cancer. “There was definitely a point where Brunswick Arts was defined by Helen’s personality,” Claire says. “Clients absolutely loved her and she was a great mentor.”
With her colleague Ben Rawlingson Plant, now Deputy Director, Global Public Affairs and Communications at the Guggenheim, Helen oversaw Brunswick Arts’ expansion to Europe and the Gulf. After her death, Ben ensured a strong foothold in Asia and the US, a presence that is now global. We supported Christie’s 250th Anniversary and major solo shows in Europe for Ai Wei Wei, Marina Abramović and Bill Viola; launched the Institut Giacometti and the Louvre’s Islamic galleries; opened the Louvre Abu Dhabi; worked with the Brooklyn and Jewish museums in New York and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco; and launched the He Art Museum in Shunde, Guangdong. We also work closely with corporations such as Facebook, Credit Suisse and Intesa Sanpaolo on their roles in the arts.
The arts now face new challenges. In the last two years, with the momentous rise of movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, the lack of equal representation in institutions has snapped clearly into focus, pushing diversity and inclusion to the forefront. At a recent webinar marking Brunswick Arts’ 20th Anniversary, journalist Charlotte Burns summarized research she has done with Julia Halperin of Artnet News. “In 2018, we examined the presence of African American artists in 30 US museums, as well as the international art market, over the previous decade. In 2019, we similarly examined the presence of female-identifying artists,” she said. “In both cases, we found that, to the institutions’ surprise, they were failing to meet the moment.” Such critical measurement is new and challenges the art world to reassess its efforts to grow diversity and shrink inequality.
We have seen that museum and gallery leaders we support aspire to the very qualities that informed Helen’s approach: to be more visionary in their outlook for the arts as essential in society, more practical in steps they must take to reach those that can benefit from their content, more persuasive in expressing their concerns.
The last year and a half has also been a trial by fire of digital readiness and funding security. In addition to providing welcoming and relevant arts for audiences, navigating these rough waters has required a head-on, creative determination and compelling communications across all channels and markets.
We are excited and optimistic for the future, while acknowledging the many challenges and uncertainties it will bring. Helen quickly established Brunswick Arts as a force in the UK cultural sector, her dynamism and belief in those she hired setting a course for unrivaled knowledge and advice across our international network, spearheading an informed, passionate team, where we now advise museums, corporates and private foundations from Europe and the Gulf to China and the US. Her legacy is central to our mission: to bring art and culture to the world, to bring down the barriers that prevent it from reaching audiences, and to help our clients realize their own mission in a dynamic and complex world. We are on fire, as she was, to carry out that mission.
Peter Dillon is a Managing Partner and Head of Brunswick Arts’ international practice. He has 20 years’ experience in communications and branding with previous roles with Swiss bank UBS and global real estate firm Tishman Speyer.
Photograph: Mark Davidson/Alamy Stock Photo