I met with Elizabeth Davies at Mortimer House, a 6 floor town house in the heart of London’s Fitzrovia, which just so happens to be one of her clients at Purple PR. Not only did I learn about the establishment’s philosophy of providing holistic balance in work and life but also about Elizabeth’s personal mantra behind switching off, which she feels gets easier with age. As Creative Strategist at the leading global lifestyle and communications agency, who pride themselves in their philosophy - being independent in attitude and operation - Elizabeth enjoys the diversity of her role. Previous to Purple PR Elizabeth spent almost four years working with the ICA as Development Manager in Brands and Projects, which she credits for its strong community. Amongst other things, thanks to Elizabeth I learnt of a new Museum that will be bracing London at the end of the year, and that Anselm Kiefer is apparently a very good cook.
Your current role is Creative Strategist at Purple PR, where you work across the arts and cultural ‘departments’ - can you explain to me what your position mainly consists of?
Purple as an agency is quite expansive. It spans everything from property to beauty to music to design. My role is eclectic in the way it spans multiple departments. Typically I work on a project basis with clients to ideate and develop new concepts and partnerships. For instance working with Mortimer House on the cultural programming.. It is nice to be able to mix things up - one minute working with the travel team around a project in Venice and then with Duddell’s restaurant. A large proportion is connecting people and projects which is kind of what I have always done. I always think that good people need to talk to one another, it is important to make introductions.
Do you think we should embrace platforms such as Instagram or do you think we need to monitor how much we use them?
Instagram is a powerful tool for storytelling, which allows you to be part of a conversation no matter where you are in the world you are. For instance with Marguerite, if you are not at an event you can still feel part of the conversation. You of course have to be mindful of the ways you use social platforms but ultimately they are a great resource.
Do you make a conscious effort to clock in and out of work? Can you switch off?
As I am getting older I am more conscious of switching off. What I’ve always loved about the art world is that its not a 9 - 5. A lot of the experiences you have are in the evenings or over dinner - often unconventional hours. But I do feel it is important to have time away from your phone and your job in order to recharge. Moving away from an in-house role has given me more freedom and flexibility to manage my own time. Working with clients like Mortimer House, who champion self care, highlights in the importance of switching off in order to work productively.
Can you name a few of your 2017 career highlights for me?
Last year is when I switched from ICA to Purple PR, which in itself was a big achievement in terms of breaking away from an institution. The ICA was such a massive part of my formative years where I was surrounded by an amazing community of artists, patrons and peers. It was a really organic move to Purple as they, as an agency, had long championed the programme and community. There wasn't one big defining moment but I think it was generally a really positive year for the change it incurred for me - thinking outside the box and not as an institution all the time, having more freedom.
What are you looking forward to working on in 2018?
We are working with Fotografiska London, which will be the capital’s largest permanent photography gallery – over 89,000 sq ft in Whitechapel. The space will be versatile – allowing it to host 7 exhibitions at once. They will also be opening a site in New York, so it’s amazing to be a part of the global expansion.
Before you worked at Purple PR you were the Development Manager for Brands & Projects at the ICA - what made you decide to move from working within an art institution to working more with the art institutions?
All of my roles to date have been primarily underpinned by relationships. The transition to purple has been very organic as the agency has always been long time supporters of the ICA programme through collaborative partnerships. It’s nice to now be in the position where you can be having a conversation with different arts organisations the whole time and looking at how the programme fits together internationally.
Are there any particular projects that you enjoyed working on most during your time at the ICA?
I really enjoyed my time at the ICA and working as part of an organization that had the ability to present programmes outside of its four walls. I’ve always been interested in the relationship between art and fashion, so some of my favourite ICA projects were the collaborations with the likes of Selfridges, Mulberry and McQ – Alexander McQueen. The ICA has an amazing community of artists and patrons that champion the programme, being part of that community was in itself one of the highlights of working there.
Can you tell me what Marguerite means to you and why you would recommend it to women working in the arts?
Marguerite has an amazing ability to turn a bad day into a good one. If you are having a tough time at work, you know there is a group of young women who you can turn to and ask for advice, it means a lot. Members are genuinely proud of each other’s achievements, which is a very special thing to be a part of.
What is your most memorable Marguerite event?
There are so many, it’s really hard to choose one! The trips to Manchester and Hauser & Wirth Somerset were great fun and also the interactive events such as the ‘In conversation with Helena Lee and Maureen Paley’ and Jermaine Francis photoshoot with The Outnet.
Do you have a favourite exhibition from 2017?
I loved Wolfgang Tillmans show at the Tate. It was so full of love and honesty. The way it was hung in the space - you could go back so many times and take away something new.
Are there any galleries or institutions in particular that you feel have a consistently strong exhibition programme?
I’ve always loved Chisenhale gallery . – It’s an amazing space that nurtures artists and gives them a platform to take risks. Ive always had a soft spot for the Hayward Gallery. Some of my favourite shows have been the more interactive ones such as Move: Choreographing You and Decision by Carsten Holler. It’s interesting to see people of all ages interacting with art.
If you could have dinner with four artists, who would you chose?
That is really hard. I’d probably say Gilbert & George because I hear they have a very good stock of champagne in their studio and Anselm Kiefer to cook for us all. Cindy Sherman - I think she would be an interesting one, good fun. Betty Woodman from the dead - she is the loveliest lady - she can make the plates.
If you could have any gallery or institution (anywhere in the world) all to yourself for a whole evening, which one would you choose?
Tough again. Chinati foundation in Marfa, Texas. There is something powerful about the space and Donald Judd’s works responding to the environment. I was luckily enough to travel there with a group from the ICA . I also love Louisianna in Copenhagen, truly one of the most beautiful Museums.
What would your advice be to a young female starting out in the arts?
Surround yourself with good people and don’t be afraid to reach out to people you are inspired by. It’s hard but once you have a support network it does get easier so basically Join Marguerite!
Words by Lara Monro. Photography by Holly Whittaker.