This Boston Gallery Is Breaking The Glass Ceiling

Salon is giving female artists a space to shine.

Photographed by Aratani Fay for Salon.

It's a well-known fact that women are underrepresented in the art world. While there are many female creatives and makers, they only make up 30% of those represented in commercial galleries and 27% shown in major exhibitions in U.S. museums. Just recently, painter Jenny Saville hit the record for the most expensive art sale by a female artist ever — but her accomplishment was overshadowed by a Bansky stunt. This is why women need a space of their own.

Enter Amanda Pratt. The internationally-acclaimed interior architect saw this disparity in the art world and decided to do something about it. So, she recently opened the doors to Salon, Boston’s first contemporary design space. Not only will it feature groundbreaking works, but the collection will highlight original pieces from mostly female designers. Salon will serve as concept store, café, gallery, and incubator for innovative studio-created works, making it a dynamic creative space to foster and showcase new talent.

We asked Pratt to share us the inspiration behind her new project — which opened up with its first exhibition this October — and explain why we need spaces like Salon to bring us closer to equality. Read ahead to take a closer look at the groundbreaking new space for women-made art.

Amanda Pratt, founder of Salon. 
Amanda Pratt, founder of Salon. 
Photographed by Jessica Delaney for Salon.

Lonny: Can you tell us about your background in the art and interiors world?
Amanda Pratt: My father is a civil engineer and started his own construction firm upon graduating from university. I watched him build a company from the ground up. My first summer job was nailing floors. I worked my way up the laborer ladder as my knowledge of how to build grew from one year to the next. This foundation in construction has been a key influence in shaping my design aesthetic which is very much driven by an appreciation of process and materials.

It was my move to Hong Kong in early 2004, however, that really fueled my love for art and contemporary design. I arrived just as Asian contemporary art was beginning to take off. There was an enormously talented group of artists who were allowed to express themselves freely without fear of retribution for the first time. The resulting work was bold, brave, and laden with meaning. I began collecting art and thoughtfully curating spaces that focused as much on the artwork as the interiors. 

What has it been like navigating the space as a woman?

AP: There are an incredible number of highly regarded female interior designers leading the industry right now. Women have been leaders in the field of interior design from the beginning. Elsie de Wolfe, Dorothy Draper, and Sister Parish were 20th century design icons whose work shaped the profession. The world of interiors is one of the few professions where women have established themselves as equal players.

This has not been the case in the designer and maker space. There is still a long way to go before female makers reach parity in both representation and valuation of work. Women are innovating the field of contemporary design by creating original work that is approachable for a broad audience. Work like this is essential in reshaping the narrative around contemporary design. Salon is my attempt to level the playing field for these talented women.

Inside Boston's Brand New Woman-Focused Art Gallery
Photographed by Aratani Fay for Salon.

What was your inspiration behind opening Salon?
AP: Salon was born out of a desire to create a curated contemporary design platform that highlights the original work of female designers and makers. There are so many talented women in the contemporary design space whose work I admire. I am so excited to provide emerging and established female designers with a unique platform to showcase their work. I have three daughters and this project is really an attempt to influence their future as much as the current landscape for women in the creative trades.

How do you plan to highlight female artists with your gallery?
AP: Every aspect of Salon was conceived to honor and celebrate women. The vast majority of the products represented in the showroom are designed by women. The coffee we serve at the café is roasted by a woman. The cup the coffee is served in is hand made by a woman. The coffee table books we sell highlight female artists and chefs. The first 14 months of gallery shows usher clients through the work of the leading women in American design. The shows that follow will focus on introducing the work of leading female designers from Europe and Asia to the U.S. market. I am honored to be representing such an incredible group of women both in the showroom and gallery.

Inside Boston's Brand New Woman-Focused Art Gallery
Photographed by Aratani Fay for Salon.

How is Salon hoping to change up the gallery format and offer something new to the Boston area?
AP: Cities like Boston are filled with sophisticated people who appreciate contemporary art and design. Unlike New York and London, however, there are few institutions that service this appreciation. With the introduction of the SOWA district and the growth of the Institute of Contemporary Art, things are slowly changing. I think Salon will become a leader in contemporary design space by offering a completely unique program of work. 

Is there anything else about Salon you would like to share?
AP: Salon has partnered with designers such as Shanan Campanaro of Eskayel, Arielle Assouline-Lichten, Debra Folz, and Ben & Aja Blanc to create exclusive pieces for Salon. Salon will also launch its first capsule collection of outdoor furniture in the new year. Stay tuned for all the amazing things to come!

I am Lonny's Senior Associate Editor. You can find me writing about interior tips, scouting out the coolest new spots, and rallying behind amazing female entrepreneurs. You can reach me at shelby.wax@livingly.com or on Instagram @shelbywax.
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