4 factors for planning the best art world events with Anna Clark

We sat down with Anna Clark, Associate Director of Events at leading gallery Hauser & Wirth and friend of zkipster, to hear her take on the events landscape in 2022, and her top tips for successful art events post-pandemic. 

With more than 13 years’ experience heading up and project managing events in the art world, including roles at galleries White Cube and Blain|Southern and as a freelance events consultant, Anna has overseen a wide range of high profile, impactful and commercially successful events, and is well-versed in delivering positive outcomes for businesses, artists and guests alike.

Anna Clark

Anna, how have you found planning events over the past few months?

“Events have been both exciting and challenging to execute. I’ve had to factor in lots of contingencies and make Plans A, B, and C at the same time: flexibility has been key. I worked for a pavilion at this year’s Venice Art Biennale, which opened in April and was Europe’s first big art world event post-pandemic, whilst based in the UK. Back then Italy had stricter Covid rules in place and some art events were still being called off, so I was in constant contact with the event hosts, consulting different websites for details of the latest regulations, discussing with caterers if food should be served and displayed differently; all whilst working remotely.

These new details added an extra layer of complexity to event planning: I needed to balance the restrictions and logistics with creating an event with great content that wowed our guests. I would say that the role of the event planner is more challenging and time-consuming now than it was pre-pandemic.”

1. “So, my first tip would be to do your research…and plan for every eventuality.”

Blain|Southern party set up during Frieze London for Jake and Dinos Chapman

What are your thoughts on live vs. hybrid/virtual events?

“It depends on the focus of the event, but generally I prefer live events for the arts/fashion space. Conferences can work well in a virtual/hybrid format and there is a benefit to online talks, but for fine art and luxury events the physical experience is the most important thing. Besides the art or product itself, the look and feel, lighting and set design, entertainment and food and drink all contribute to the magic of a live event. There are art world traditions that are best upheld and celebrated in person too: private views, for example.

“That’s not to say that the digital aspect of events isn’t relevant: it’s hugely important. Having the right strategy in place to perfectly capture photo and film for PR and social media means your events will reach a much wider audience and generate that all-important ‘FOMO’ whilst also creating an archival document. The tech should be as invisible and unobtrusive as possible though:”

2. “Events should translate into digital without detracting from the physical guest experience.”

A dinner for contemporary artist Jonas Burgert in Berlin

Speaking of tech and digital, how has zkipster helped you deliver your events?

zkipster meets the brief as it is invisible tech. It’s an easy choice for me as I’ve used zkipster many times before so I know that it works well and connects easily, giving me one less thing to worry about. 

zkipster’s Covid Checker has obviously been really helpful, as is being able to see exactly who has checked in to an event and which guests are present at any given moment, but the Check-In Message function is the one I’ve been using the most. With art events, there are often different groups inviting different guests, so it’s important they know when their guests have arrived so they can ensure someone is in the room to meet them. For example, on opening night at the Venice Art Biennale there were multiple events taking place, so some guests were party hopping between them and only spending a brief period at each event. Being able to alert key stakeholders when important guests arrive is so efficient: they can maximize the time they spend with them, however short, and make sure it’s meaningful. zkipster’s special features make life easier and events run smoother:”

3. “Using tools like zkipster frees you to concentrate on the event and focus on the client.”

A dinner held in honor of the artist Sean Scully at the Venice Art Biennale in 2019 and organized by art event expert Anna Clark
A dinner for painter Sean Scully at the Venice Art Biennale in 2019

How have guests’ expectations changed?

“Guests really care about which events they are attending in 2022. Their habits have changed; they’ve realized they don’t need to attend every single event, and so they’re more selective and have higher expectations. This means that events need to be top notch – the whole process has to be perfect and more personalized than before. Hosts also care more than ever who is in the room, so capturing guest data is essential. The ability to see and understand plus ones with zkipster’s Guest Relationships feature will be really useful.

“Guest comfort is crucial. At this year’s Venice Art Biennale, which represented an important threshold for large scale European art events, we specifically chose a venue with a large garden to give guests the option of being inside or out. We also made the deliberate decision not to have a seated dinner with strangers sitting together: it’s what we would have chosen previously but restrictions were tighter and the mood was different in April. A lot of additional information was also included on the invitation so that guests knew exactly how the event would run in advance.”

4. “Craft an event experience that is both memorable and comfortable for your guests.”

All images courtesy of Anna Clark.

As well as art event experts like Anna Clark, zkipster is used and recommended by arts organizations all over the world. Read our Case Studies with the Serpentine Galleries, the Barbican Art Gallery and the British Council here.