Meet Catherine Testorf

It's all about the story and this is a great one to share! We had a chance to meet up with Catherine Testorf, mom of 2, art dealer, former finance executive, and native of Switzerland. Her path back to the paid workforce was via entrepreneurship, an opportunity to combine her skills in relationship building and passion for art. 

Catherine @ Art Basel, Miami

Tell us about yourself
I am the co-owner of S Artspace Gallery in New York. Prior to opening the gallery, I have worked for over ten years in the private banking sector in Switzerland. In 1999, I moved to New York, and was recruited by the UNSPF, United Nations, and continued working in the financial field till the birth of my first son. 

What's your favorite quote?
“Art speaks where words are unable to explain”

What lead you to step out of the workforce and tell us about your journey back to work?
After two years of non-paid leave, I was ready to go back to work, however, the UN refused to give me a half-time job, which would have been ideal. Therefore, I decided to quit my position and take care of my two boys.
Fascinated by the art, I signed up for several evening art classes at the MoMa as well as an art business class at Sotheby’s. Later, in 2012, I decided to launch my own gallery. 

You made a big transition from finance/corporate to being an entrepreneur in the art world, where did this interest come from?
Many reasons brought me to move from finance to the art world: It was very difficult for me to return to the financial sector as my expertise was in private banking, which required new clients. As my clients were all located in Switzerland, it was virtually impossible to resume where I left off. While I was managing large influential clients and helping them invest in the global market place, I realized the importance of art as an investment. By taking the art business class at Sotheby’s, I noticed the synergy between investing in companies and art! My conclusion was:  I can combine my expertise with my passion.

How did you prepare for this transition?
First of all, I started to represent some International artists in the US by doing some pop-up shows.  After a year, a well-known French gallery approached me to represent them, but in the end I decided to open a gallery on my own, following my mission: introducing emerging international artists, from lesser-known regions of the world, to the NY art scene.  

How did your family/friends/colleagues react to your career transition ?
It was not a surprise for anyone. I smoothly transitioned from being a stay at home mother to an art dealer. 
Even when I was not officially working, I was always active in the community (Junior League, Art Center,etc.).
This change of career affected my family, as I needed to work on the weekend, which was not the case before.

How have mentors played a role in your career?
In general, mentors are a source of inspiration and are essential to opening doors. Personally, I did not have one, but many people have helped me in my career change… without these people, I would not have been able to learn fast and survive in the art world.

What inspires you to do more?
I love to work with female artists … I believe in their strength and capability. Motivating others is a big part of your "inspiration sessions" at Purpl.

As an entrepreneur and mom, how do you manage it all? 
Having my own company gives me the flexibility to work as much as I want and to spend time with my family as well.  

What is a your most significant professional accomplishment?
To have encouraged creativity in different art expressions such as fashion, music, and dance.

When you meet people exploring career transition, what advice do you have for them?
Change is positive; it forces you to re-evaluate yourself. 

In your experience working with companies, what qualities must you have to be a successful entrepreneur?
Be knowledgeable, professional, passionate and dynamic 

Any parting words for our Talent Community? 
Everyone is capable of doing it: take online classes and network/ brainstorm with friends who have also re-entered the job scene. It could also be a great opportunity to change your career path as well. In re-entering the market, you will have more opportunities than you think. Don’t miss the chance to do what you like, discover yourself and your hidden talents!