Welcome to Creative Closeup, an ongoing series where we spend time with inspiring women learning about their creative practice, the spaces they inhabit and how their work influences their style choices.
This month, our conversation led us to NYC, where we chatted with Christine Messineo, Director of Americas, Frieze, who combines her passion for art, civic engagement and fashion seamlessly. With a jam-packed schedule, she depends on pieces that are easy and versatile. Find out more about her unique role, her approach to style and how she fell in love with art originally.
Q: How did you develop an interest in art? And what was it like to transition from working in fashion to the art world?
A: Through my family—our vacations, weekend escapes were to museums and art became a route to understanding a city. I developed an interest in contemporary art from the Wadsworth Atheneum and Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT. I have such a distinct memory of the Nan Goldin show in New York at The Whitney, this was in the days of postcards, this momento that hung taped up on the wall of my bedroom, alongside a Wolfgang Tillmans replica. That’s the way you collected inspiration and were able to revisit contemporary artists.
My career began in fashion, in the same way. I had an archive of postcards from exhibitions, I tore out pages from fashion magazines and was often attracted to campaigns shot by photographers who blurred the line between commercial and art. I never really saw them as these distinct bodies, so the transition felt natural.
Q: How does living in NYC influence your style?
A: My relationship with New York doesn’t rely on a singular way of shopping—I still scour the upper east side thrifts, I go to Uniqlo for t-shirts, I run through the designer stores in Soho.
Q: How do you approach dressing for Frieze as Fair Director, Americas? Does it change depending on the city?
A: Opening day is always a bit more formal and as the fair progresses I tend to be more casual. The fourth day I wear jeans or something vaguely athletic. But one thing that remains consistent, flats, sneakers. I’m walking around all day—seeing collectors, curators, chatting with galleries, sneaking a glass of Ruinart champagne just before closing. I move through the entire fair many times over the course of the day.
Q: Is there an artist(s) whose style you admire and have found influential?
A: Mickalene Thomas has the most amazing jewelry. We were together at an event at Gigi’s in Los Angeles during Frieze Los Angeles, circled around a banquet and I was completely taken with her rings—dense, layered and elegant. Since then I’ve run into her a few times and on each occasion I’ve loved her style. I also just love the fair, people turn it out—I’m inspired by my peers and visitors. It’s this mix of casual comfort (cause who wants to walk the fair in stilettos) with a creative view and mix of color.
Another icon is the artist Barbara Kasten, who I worked closely with beginning in my days at Bortolami Gallery. I’ve raided her closets, and this is a serious collection, decades of taste. Barbara also shares my affinity for consignment shopping and often our travels and my visits to her hometown of Chicago involve an expedition. She also has fantastic accessories—silver and turquoise necklaces and rings, cowboy boots, a simple leather belt. I hope when I’m in my 80s, I’ve got her sense of style.
Q: What draws you to Merlette?
A: The ease. Tailored, versatile, interesting. I’ve worn the shirts with athletic pants and sneakers but also to more formal events with tuxedo pants and heels.
Q: What does it mean to you to work with female founded brands?
A: I went to an all girls high school so I hope it’s in my DNA to support and find inspiration from female founders and support the next generation of powerful role models.
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
A: I’m also a mother. To a three year old. So it has to be easy. My mornings are not dedicated to blow drying, steaming, ironing. My clothing has to be versatile. I always have a chrome manicure. Sunglasses, baseball hats, a suit. Wide leg pants and a sweatshirt. I’ve become more of a tomboy.
Q: How did you style your Merlette pieces for this shoot?
Denim, sneakers, boots! I’m not tied to my desk. For instance, last week I began my day in the office, around lunch Camille (who is the Fair and Program Manager) and I headed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to the not-for-profit Dieu Donné to watch an artist begin a new body of work. Dieu Donné supports artists as they embark on making work with paper so there are rooms dedicated to pulp and water. Then I hopped the subway to meet a collector at Grand Central Oyster bar for a martini (dirty for me) and a snack. And dinner with friends downtown. Merlette was with me the entire time!
Photographed by Shana Trajanoska