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13th December 2016

Q&A: Marguerite founder Joanna Payne

Marguerite is a brand new members club for women in the arts. Formerly Head of VIP Relations at Photo London, with four years prior experience in Senior VIP Relations at Frieze Art Fair, founder Joanna Payne was inspired to launch a series of events for female arts professionals back in February 2015. Following a huge surge in interest, Joanna turned her networking and community idea into a club and called it “Marguerite” in January this year. 

As we hurtle towards 2017, and following the official launch of the club last month, we spoke to Joanna about the future of Marguerite, the importance of empowering women to feel confident and supported in their careers and the advice she wants to give to those just starting out!

Joanna Payne. Photography by Holly Whittaker.
You boast an impressive CV of roles at pivotal institutions in the creative world, what triggered your desire to leave them behind and start Marguerite?
The demand! Marguerite started out in February 2015 with some prosecco and crisps in my living room. The night was simply meant to be an opportunity for me to bring together all of my fabulous female art world friends so that they could meet and share ideas, not to mention a glass or two of plonk! The night — and the subsequent events that followed were far more popular than even I had imagined. There really seemed to be an appetite for this type of event and the group very quickly began to develop into the most wonderful network of women who were all united in their desire to share support, advice, contacts and positive vibes. 

The turning point was really when I met Joe Halligan from the architecture/artist collective Assemble at a party. They’d been nominated for the 2015 Turner Prize at that point which they later went on to win. The RSVPs really flooded in for that event and our members came away buzzing from how inspiring Assemble were in what they had already achieved. One member even resigned from her desk job the following week to pursue her dream of focussing on her own work as an artist — which I’m delighted to say she’s still doing today!

We had planned to do just six events a year, but it quickly became clear that that just wasn’t enough and as I’ve never been one for doing things half-heartedly, I took the plunge and quit my job to focus on Marguerite full-time in July this year. 
Marguerite with Sam Thorne, Director of Nottingham Contemporary. Photography by Holly Whittaker.
The club is named after the wonderful Peggy Guggenheim, how has she inspired you and how are her values upheld through Marguerite?
That’s right. Marguerite “Peggy” Guggenheim was such an amazingly inspirational woman in the way that she lived and breathed art and championed young artists - not to mention the fact that she had a flipping good time whilst she was at it!

She really was one of the great heroines of 20th Century art. As the Germans entered Paris she embarked on a mission to save a painting a day - without her, seminal works by artists like Klee, Mondrian, Magritte and Kandinsky would no longer exist. She later went on to back artists like Pollock and Rothko - now household names.

What really draws me to her specifically though was her eccentricity and the way she embraced life — she famously had over a thousand lovers and used to sunbathe in the nude on the roof of her Venetian palazzo, which I think is just so glam. And those glasses! What a woman… 

Marguerite strives to uphold Peggy’s confidence, ambition and vigour — her fearlessness and her recognition of the importance of surrounding yourself by fabulous, intelligent people to expand your own knowledge and network.

How do you perceive the role of women in the arts and how would you like to see it change? What role does Marguerite play in this?
We all know that women hold a huge number of junior to mid-level positions in the art world but there is a real problem, as in many industries, in that women struggle to reach the highest level positions available to them. While there are a whole host of reasons for this — and of course not every woman wants to be a CEO — one huge factor is confidence. 

Marguerite aims to provide interesting, exciting and exclusive environments where women can feel confident and empowered among a support network of influential, inspiring and intelligent women.

Memberships include opportunities to be part of events, parties and trips. Typically what do these entail and what do members take away from them?
Our events aim to be diverse and whilst all of our events have formal content to them, they are specifically designed to be fun so that our members feel relaxed. It’s always easier to be open to making new friends when you’re having a good time, right?

Some recent events have included a photo-shoot with the fashion and portrait photographer, Rankin, afternoon tea with Julia Peyton-Jones (Former Director of Serpentine Galleries) and Gregor Muir (then Executive Director of the ICA and soon-to-be Head of Collections, International Art at Tate) and a private collection visit with Valeria Napoleone (patron of female artists and Founder of Valeria Napoleone XX). Next year will see events hosted by Frances Morris (Director of Tate Modern, Jan Dalley (Arts Editor of the FT), Victoria Siddall (Director of Frieze Fairs) and artists such as Nick Knight, Celia Hempton, Annie Morris and Idris Khan.

We also arrange two trips away per year which act as a great impetus to get you out of London to see things you might not otherwise get round to, with a group of likeminded people. 

People always come away buzzing from our events which I love! They leave feeling inspired, empowered and with a mind fizzing with new ideas and new connections in different pockets of the art world. Even if that person you met isn’t directly in your field, you never know when that connection will come in useful or how their experience in a slightly different area might help you with a situation.
Marguerite Founder Joanna Payne (R) with Marguerite Committee Member Holly Whittaker (L) at Marguerite’s event hosted by photographer, Rankin.
What is different about Marguerite, in comparison to existing creative industry members club?
Marguerite events are not about artificial networking — there are no corporate name badges, stale conference centres or soulless bars to meet in — we’re all about providing fun opportunities to allow women to make meaningful connections through a shared passion. Marguerite hosts tailored and exclusive events that you just don’t see on offer with other clubs and you have the chance to enjoy them in the company of a fantastically talented and dynamic group of women working in all sectors of the art world. Unlike some other groups, we welcome women working in the visual arts in the broadest sense; painting, fashion, graphic design, photography, performance, sculpture, you name it, to allow our members to meet women working in the industry who they might not usually come across in their day to day.

How do Marguerite members, and the club itself, support women in creative industries as a whole?
We’re lucky that we have the chance to champion women working in the creative industries by hosting events with them. While we’ve hosted events with some of the biggest artists, collectors and curators working today, we also have the opportunity to put a spotlight on women who are making waves in the early stages of their careers.

In 2017 we will be launching Guggenheim Jeune — a new, cheaper membership type whereby members of Marguerite and Marguerite 1938 will host events for women who are just starting out in the world of work. I started my paid career in the art world (after a short stint of unpaid internships) on a mere 12k per year — which, when I’d just moved to London at the ripe old age of 22, wasn’t ideal. I’m keen to create a new group that gives women who are just starting out confidence and a ready-made network.

How has the launch gone?
The launch has been really great. Whilst we obviously soft-launched Marguerite earlier this year, we wanted to launch officially to coincide with the announcement of our first ever winter programme of events. Our launch event with Holly Blakey was a wonderful opportunity for us to thank our members, hosts and supporters who have been there from the beginning and to share our vision and plans with future members! 

We now have 130 members and that number is growing each day. Our members span the arts — from artists to women working in auction houses, fashion brands, PR companies, art fairs, non-profits, museums, galleries, design agencies and more. Our members also work at all levels of the industry, from junior assistants to director level, and ages span from 25-56! 

If you could give one piece of advice to young women starting out in the creative world what would it be?
Be confident. Don’t be scared to ask for what you want or ask other people for help when you need it. There’s a hell of a lot to be said for the phrase “you don’t ask, you don’t get”. Saying that, “fake it ’til you make it” also comes in handy! Sometimes when I’m not feeling very confident, I just pretend to be until eventually I am!

Learn more about Marguerite online and follow them on Instagram


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