Introducing Collective 131

Collective 131 is the brainchild of Cassandra Fiorenza, a 30-year-old art gallerist living in Hoboken, New Jersey.  

“I always wanted to go out on my own, but these days, opening a brick-and-mortar gallery is not only risky, but I truly feel that everything is moving online,” said Cassandra, an art history major who interned at museums and galleries before immersing herself in the art gallery world in Boston and New York City.

She said the art world has been slowly adapting to the digital era and was intrigued by the idea of appealing to a new generation of art collectors—millennials—with a purely online gallery. But Cassandra also wanted to narrow her focus: Instead of building a random collection or making an online shop devoted to a particular art style, she decided to use Collective 131 to advance the careers of emerging and established female artists.

“Having worked in galleries, I've seen how dominated it is by men, and I thought about how I might have an opportunity here to show more women artists—and that turned into making it solely female artists,” explained Cassandra. “Women in all industries need more representation, and I also thought this would be a great way for emerging artists to reach a new audience.”

To explain the struggle women face in the art world, Cassandra points to statistics compiled by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Although about half of the visual artists working today are women, they still earn only 81 cents for every $1 made by a male artist, according to the National Endowment for the Arts1. Women are also under-represented in galleries and museums: Only 25 to 35 percent of artists represented in galleries in the U.S. and the U.K. are women, according to the Gallery Tally project, and Jerry Saltz reported in New York Magazine that only 5 percent of artworks on the walls of major U.S. museums were created by women.

 “I think it's tough for a woman in this industry,” Cassandra said. “I've spoken to these artists and friends/colleagues, and the art world can be a bit of a boys club.” 

Cassandra began building Collective 131 in June and officially launched the website on October 1.

“I just had the idea and started to run with it,” she said.

Some of the artists whose works are for sale on Collective 131 are Cassandra’s personal friends and acquaintances. Others were recommended by her friends or are simply artists she cold-emailed after seeing their work. 

“I was surprised that I got a response, and really positive ones at that,” she said. 

 Collective 131 isn’t limited to any particular style; the available art includes pieces that are abstract, figurative, surrealist, and more. But Cassandra said the art on display is still carefully curated by her; it is important to her that the website retain a real gallery feel and not become an Amazon-style repository of art.

 “I was attracted to all of the artwork from the artists I have now,” she explained, saying that she was immediately drawn in by the images. And after learning more about the artists, she realized that “they all have such unique stories to tell.”

Although all the art for sale was created by women, Cassandra created Collective 131 with buyers of all genders in mind.

“I hope to sell to both men and women,” Cassandra said. “I think millennial collectors are seeing the importance of having a diverse collection, and they are more open to collecting online.”

Collective 131 is the product of a lifetime spent thinking seriously about women and art. Cassandra’s interest in art and art history began while she was attending the Emma Willard School in upstate New York. The prestigious girls’ boarding school, whose alumnae include Jane Fonda, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, has “a wonderful art culture on campus,” Cassandra said. In fact, one of the artists featured on Collective 131, Sarah Fuhrman, is also an Emma Willard graduate.

While at Emma Willard, Cassandra’s teacher, Susan Hoffer, helped nurture her interest in art history and encouraged her to join Triangle, the school’s art and literary magazine. Cassandra eventually became the Senior Editor of Triangle, which features student artwork throughout the school year. She went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in art history at the University of Connecticut.


Written by Kelly Catalfamo

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