Industry Insider: Alexandra Ray


Alex Ray, founder of Five Senses Art Consultancy, worked as a photographer’s assistant for both Nick Knight and Herb Ritts and as an editorial photographer, before launching Five Senses Interiors in 2002. With the design philosophy of creating a sensory experience by focusing on color, art, texture, sound and customized scents, her work led Alex to deal privately in contemporary art in London at the pinnacle of the exploding British Art scene in the late 90’s. Now in San Francisco, Ray works with clients solely on sourcing contemporary art for both residential and clients and curates pop up shows with some of the Bay Area’s best galleries and art experiences. 


Work by Martin Bialas installation at the Kelt Group

Joshua Targownik, Work by Martin Bialas installation at the Kelt Group, Erika Frank Interior Design

At what point did you know you wanted to pursue a career in fine art? 

Age 4! I saw a painting in a book by Picasso and loved its boldness and energy. I knew from an early age the power and seduction of art and I wanted to be an artist. My mother was an artist and my father was in the film business with a great passion for collecting art. I studied Fine art in London at Central St Martin’s School of Art among many fledgling fashion designers who have made it today, but I never thought I would actually be on the selling side, that just sort of happened very serendipitously. It actually gives me great fulfillment to sell another artist’s work as I know how happy it secretly makes them!

How did your work as an editorial photographer shape your work as a curator?

I think all my years in editorial photography helped train my eye to edit, select, and be ahead of the trends. A lot of what I did in photography was to showcase the uniqueness of faces, whether they were models, actors, directors.  Therfore I try to use the same aproach but different process now when I curate- assemble and make sense of a lot of talent under one roof. 


With your interior work, do you start the design of a room around a piece of art? 

Yes, I always start with the art. It is so much easier when you do! Most designers or homeowners don’t want to hear this but art becomes much more poignant and purposeful when you begin with art. I love to work with clients who already have art that they are trying to create a sense of place with, taking lighting, mood and positioning very seriously. This is a part of a dialogue that I believe every interior designer should have with their clients right at the beginning at the’ design concept’ stage, as art is just as important as furniture and overall decor. It must be treated with a proper sense of allocated budget and aesthetic integration, right from the start. 


A lightbox illuminating the garden at the SF Decorator Showcase house, illuminating sculptures by Tyler Eash

Do you advise clients to purchase for value or is your direction based on their preferences and taste?

Both. In some cases people are interested in the investment value of acquiring a certain work. There is a lot talked about ‘investment in art’ and to some, this represents something they can’t associate art with money or the concept of what art stands for to them. However, if I can find a work of art that my clients connect with, love and it is a smart purchase then I don’t see a problem. Investment in art is all relative, you can invest in art in small ways and gradually build a collection, buying early and taking some risks. Its rather like buying a house in a developing neighborhood and being prepared to wait until others catch on. Investing needs careful consideration and often consulting with a professional art advisor who tracks the market  24/7 is the way to go—art is not something you flip quickly!  

What can you share about the SF Art scene? 

We are potentially sitting on an exciting hotbed of activity and new generation of buyers. I personally am very excited to see what happens in the next few years.  Its all here…innovation, money, youth, growth, but San Francisco has its obstacles to overcome. Everyone I speak to, wants the tech generation to care more about art and culture and get more involved. S.F Galleries and artists can’t survive if this doesn’t happen and the money isn’t spread around. The problem is the Tech industry is moving so fast, with an emphasis focused so much on the future and speed that it sometimes it needs to slow down to appreciate art and all the wonderful things that artists are creating every day here.  I am very encouraged by the new Minnesota St Project which will be a new art destination of affordable gallery space for several galleries in the city that have been slightly rudderless. This initiative has been funded by the Rappaports, who are big art collectors and it will be open in 2017. Despite high rents new galleries or pop up curators, such as myself are doing things everywhere in the city. Recently opened galleries include, Jules Maeght Gallery in Hayes valley and Dryansky Gallery in Russian Hill. Also curators/artists Tyler Eash and Landis Velazquez of the #* Collective, who have organized a group of 10 emerging SF artists working in all medias, to show in pop up locations around the city.  These guys are interested in keeping recent graduates in S.F, by showing work that ordinary galleries here won’t! 


Chromogenic Color Prints by Jeffrey Rothstein for Alex’s upcoming show

Any artists we should be watching now? 

So many…Matt Lipps at Jessica Silverman, Nick Goss at Josh Lilley , Analia Saban at Josh Lilley, Leslie Vance at David Kordansky, Jonas Wood at David Kordansky, Margo Woleweic at Anat Ebgi, Alec Soth at Fraenkel, Jason Middlebrook at Lora Reynolds, Miya Ando at CULT, Kristine Eudey unrepresented  Oakland artist and recent MFA graduate from CCA. 


 Tell us your current favorite art fair, gallery, artist.

 -My favorite international art fair, is Miami Art Basel especially Nada and Untitled, also Frieze in London

-Local art fair would be FOG art fair in S.F 

-Fave Local Gallery is CULT Exhibitions run by gallerist/curator Aimee Friberg     


Best destination to travel for overall art experience? 

I would say London in October for FRIEZE, as its a gorgeous time to be there. The art galleries and museums always put on amazing shows during Frieze week that are often more stunning than the art fair itself and London is awash with art, video, installations, and celebrities. 


Graphite on Paper by Jeffrey Eisenberg for Alex’s upcoming show














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