KITRI Spotlight: Paola Saracino Fendi

KITRI Spotlight: Paola Saracino Fendi

Meet our creative, intelligent and simply brilliant friends who inspire KITRI in every single way.

Meet Paola Saracino Fendi, a bona fide #KITRIgirl and Associate Director of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie's London. To celebrate the start of Frieze, we sat down with Paola to talk style, inspirations and her top tips for navigating the iconic art fair.

We’d love to know more about your career path so far…
As a native New Yorker, I was lucky enough to live within walking distance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and that was my playground growing up. That tied with coming from a creative family, I developed a passion for art.
After a BA at Boston University and a Master at Christie’s Education, my art career started in Paris, where I was studying Art History at La Sorbonne and worked during the summers at the Centre national des arts plastiques (National Centre for Visual Arts, Cnap), which is a public institution attached to the French Ministry of Culture. I helped them organise their annual contemporary installation at the Grand Palais called MONUMENTA. After working hand in hand with artists like Anish Kapoor and Christian Boltanski, contemporary art became my focus and speciality. I am hoping that in a small way I can take part in working with artists who are shaping the future of art.

I've been working at Christie’s for six years, working my way up to my current role by organising exhibitions and auctions. I have collaborated with institutions in London on charities and advised my clients throughout the years on their collection. I have learnt so much on the job.  

Tell us more about your role at Christie's…
I am an Associate Director, Specialist in the Post-War & Contemporary Department. I appraise artworks and strategise on the buying and selling of contemporary artists and collections for our clients. I was the Head of the Day Auction in London, which means I was also responsible for putting together an auction. This involves researching, sourcing, creating the catalogues, marketing the works, installing the previews and then eventually selling them; managing all of this with the help of my amazing team.

What does your typical day look like?
I always start my day on the bus! It’s a moment to myself to read, as well getting in some cheeky window shopping! I tend to read a lot of art-related literature, as it's how I do research and keep up to date with what is happening in the art world. The moment I walk off the bus, it becomes a day filled with multitasking. Not always glamorous, a lot emails and phone calls. You are glued to the phone, especially now during Frieze. However, in this profession, you have the opportunity to see beautiful art and I've travelled to see some really great artworks.

You've had an impressive career so far! Can you pinpoint a moment that you are most proud of?
I started this year with an amazing career highlight when I organised the auction for The George Michael Collection. Putting this auction together and working with his family and friends to fulfil his wishes was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. It was 100% sold raising over £11,000,000 for charity. He was a beautiful and generous man, and to help honour his memory and legacy is something that will remain with me forever.

Any tips for women looking to move or start their career in the art world?
Be honest, have an informed opinion, don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek advice and be curious. Read a lot, go see graduate shows, artist studios, art fairs, museums, galleries, etc… don’t stop exploring. The art world is always changing and expanding, so there is always room to learn more.

Who is your favourite artist?
Such a hard question, there are so many artists that I love and admire! The hard thing working in the art world is that you see works or discover artists that you become totally passionate about. I recently went to Tate St. Ives to see the first major UK solo exhibition of Huguette Caland, a Lebanese artist who has sadly recently passed away. Her celebrated series Bribes de Corps (Body Parts) from the 1970s, were made after relocating in Paris from Beirut. They are abstract and erotically charged paintings, where Caland magnifies the human body and celebrates female sexuality, using bright colours and sinuous lines. They are gorgeous!

Frieze Masters and Frieze London opened today. Any tips on who is a must see?  
There is so much to see, so I always advise to make a plan of action for navigating the fair, as it can be quite a visual overload. I usually start with Frieze Focus, a section of the fair for galleries aged 15 years or younger, where you get an opportunity to discover new talent from ambitious young galleries. Frieze Masters is always nice and this year there is an emphasis on female artists who have changed the course of art history. I am excited to see which artists the galleries have selected.

Paola Saracino Fendi with Louise Lawler, What Else Could I Do, 1994. £40,000-60,000, Lot 271; Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession (QTW), 2003. £150,000-200,000, Lot 285 and a detail of Shara Hughes, Secret Office, 2010. £25,000-35,000, Lot 202; offered in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Auction on 5 October 2019 at Christie’s in London.

Who inspires you?
My grandmother, who I am named after, and my mother. I come from a family of elegant, intelligent, independent, strong, confident, creative and innovative women. My grandmother is always curious, always looking at the future and very wise. She started working when she was 14 years old in the world of fashion and, alongside her sisters, they have created a beautiful legacy. Both her and my mother have influenced my style as well as my work ethic and ambition.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I always call my father when I need advice. He is a straight-shooter which I love. He has always told me to never settle and if there was something I didn’t agree with, or was unhappy with, to not be afraid to speak up and change it. If there is something I wanted, he encouraged me to just go for it. There is no harm in trying and asking, even if it may not go your way, this is how you learn from experience.

How would you describe your style?
I would describe my style as clean, modern and direct with no frills. I have a sensibility for colours and shapes that are a bit unusual, make a statement and show my personality.

 We love to see you wearing KITRI. Why did you choose these pieces?
I love that KITRI has well-tailored, comfortable, statement styles, that I can mix-and-match. I chose pieces that are easy to wear for any occasion and that fit my style - clean and contemporary whilst still grabbing attention.


Blanca Utility Jumpsuit, Joy Mix Print Tea Dress, Holly Green Tailored Blazer, Meredith Smocked ShirtAgnes Green Tailored TrousersRodeo Black Embroidered T-shirt, Denise Utility Trousers

Finally, what’s next?
So many changes and exciting plans! I am getting married, so I'm having fun planning with my fiancé. I am also moving back to New York! I haven’t lived there for 10 years, so I am really excited to re-discover my hometown and take part in the art scene there.

On Monday Paola and our founder Haeni co-hosted an intimate #KITRIgirls dinner with women in the arts to celebrate the start of Frieze. They dined at the delicious Luca in Clerkenwell, one of our favourite spots in town. Here are some of the highlights...

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