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Of all the daily art news heard around the globe—record sales at auctions, the glamour and celebrity at art fairs, the high-profile museum and gallery openings—generosity is hardly ever front and center. But generosity is, in fact, alive and blooming in the art world. Case in point: Paddle8, the successful online art auction startup that has made philanthropy a core part of its mission from the beginning. We sat down with the company’s West Coast Director of Benefit Auctions (and MA Art Business alumna) Kate (Duggan) McGlasson to learn more about Paddle8 and her path to a rewarding career in the arts.

The mechanics behind the concept

We’ve all heard the name. Paddle8 has been climbing the ranks of the online art world since it was founded in 2011. But what exactly is the concept behind the platform? Paddle8 brings the tradition-bound auction world into the 21st century. Offering a seamless online process, Paddle8 makes collecting and selling art online an easy, efficient, and enjoyable experience. Paddle8 features specialist-curated auctions and nonprofit auctions, as well as buy-now sales in the categories of Contemporary Art, Prints and Multiples, Photographs, Street Art, and other Unique Collectibles.

Philanthropy through art

Over the years, Paddle8 has been especially proud to be the partner to more than 600 nonprofit organizations worldwide, connecting them with a global community of more than 500,000 collectors, supporting each organization’s fundraising efforts, helping raise more than $100 million collectively. The team has partnered with a wide range of organizations—from artist residencies to museums. As Kate explains, the company has supported “nonprofits of all shapes and sizes,” helping their fundraising “reach new levels” and extend their reach far beyond their own boards or existing database of supporters. Kate recalls a recent benefit auction for a client whose focus is social justice. The Paddle8-hosted auction was a smashing success, bringing in nearly double the organization’s goals, ensuring sufficient funding to continue their important work in their city. It is little wonder that Kate considers her role within the company to be fulfilling. “Whether our partner’s focus is on supporting emerging artists, delivering hope to those in need, or funding cancer research, it’s a joy for me and my team to get to do what we can to enhance their fundraising efforts.”

The start of an art career…in real estate

So how does one get to a rewarding career in the art world? In Kate’s case, her passion for the field can be traced back, oddly enough, to real estate. “I had studied art history in undergrad at UCLA and found myself in commercial real estate, following in the footsteps of the men in my family,” Kate explains. “One of my colleagues was a very enthusiastic art collector. He would always come in and show me images of the latest work that he had purchased.” One day, he shared an image with her of Ori Gersht’s “Big Bang” series, and Kate was hooked. “I couldn’t stop thinking about the image of the flower arrangement exploding.” This encouraged her to learn more about the industry. She visited galleries, got involved with the LA art scene, and, finally, applied for the graduate program at Sotheby’s Institute.

Kate’s post-graduation resume incorporates nearly every corner of the industry. While completing her dissertation in Singapore, she worked at a gallery that presented established Western artists who had never before shown in South East Asia. When she returned to LA, she joined an art advisor who represented artists and worked closely with designers. Then she dealt with art of historical significance—and learned how to manage collections of this magnitude—by working with another art advisor and collector. In 2011 and 2012, she delved into the business of art fair production, managing the operations of Art Platform in LA. But ultimately, it was the act of generosity itself that led her to her current role. Over 5 years ago, after interviewing for a role at Paddle8 that was not quite the right fit, she offered her time to help out at their next benefit auction. The night proved to be a marker in her career as she was offered a role to manage benefit auctions for the West Coast before the evening ended. She hasn’t looked back since.

Today, Kate can be found strategizing with clients for their upcoming event, sharing with prospective partners on the value that Paddle8 can add to their fundraising efforts, or exploring galleries with her 7 month old daughter Madeleine. 

Featured image: Still from Ori Gersht's Blow Up 04 (2007)

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