Creative Curator and Artist: Diane Allen for Gemma

Diane Allen of ‘Diane Allen Presents’ curates and cultivates emerging artists and experiences. She has managed to make a career within the art world and can spot quality and enticing art quickly. She has “the eye.” Knowing how to recognize raw talent and creativity, Diane Allen is able to support many artists and support their career. It actually can make an enormous difference to the artist in terms of self-confidence and determination.

Diane Allen is a renowned creative entrepreneur, art collector, jeweler, innovator, philanthropist, and true Renaissance woman. From yearning to be an artist in High school and art school (after a teacher told her she would not make it), her passion grew, and her fine jewelry business was born in 1981. As an art connoisseur, Allen has collected art her entire life while supporting emerging artists. Diane loves making a difference in the world and between her executive, creative, and philanthropic pursuits, Allen took the time to speak with Gemma Magazine.

It seems like you have been attracted to creative and artistic ventures your entire life. Did someone inspire you artistically the way you now inspire others in their careers and give them strength to keep going?
It’s actually a funny story. When I was in art school in San Francisco, I was criticized by an art teacher for doing an exercise in pen and ink the way I wanted to. I got frustrated with his criticism and shortly after abandoned art school entirely. However, that leads me to a three-dimensional art form – jewelry, and I have been in that business for over 40 years. Therefore, I have always felt so supportive of artists because my own experience was the opposite.

You give so much support to emerging artists, (which is crucial), what keeps you motivated personally?
I’m a treasure hunter, and what that means to me is discovering the art and meeting new artists and living an art-filled life. The treasure hunting aspect comes through in so many other areas of my life and gives me a life filled with creativity.

Was it hard to transition out of jewelry business and make a change to curating and cultivating artists and their experiences? Did you feel ready for a change?
I am in the middle of that process right now. What that means is not only am I in the daily grind of closing my jewelry business physically and emotionally, while simultaneously making decisions and moves towards curating three events for the fall. I am busy, but yes, I felt ready for a change.

Tell me a bit about Desert X and who is involved in this art installation?
I met Susan Davis, the creative director of Desert X, through a close friend who had just become one of the first founding members. I found both Susan and the vision for Desert X compelling and exciting. I soon joined the board and hosted a fundraiser at my home in 2017. I have now worked through two bi-annual Desert X programs; each was extraordinary and well attended. The concept of free public art of the magnitude and scale that Neville Wakefield curates together with Susan and the board is so original, moving and beautiful in this gorgeous desert setting. As a board member, I am involved in fundraising and promotion of course, but just
being involved in such a large scale project from the beginning has been very exciting.

How long does it take to prepare for Desert X?
Desert X is a bi-annual event, partially based on the sheer scale of the event. This is because of the time it takes to curate, and the artists to produce. It is a lengthy and enormous endeavor. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences, and I am very proud to have come onto the board at its inception.

Why are people so in awe of the fusion of art and landscape?
Putting art in a different visual context other than our typical museum experience was the primary motivation for Susan Davis and Desert X. She and others have always realized placing outdoor art, whether permanent or temporary, creates a new visual dialogue between the landscape and the architecture. The ephemeral aspect of Desert X is what makes it particularly exciting.

Do you have a specific art medium that you are attracted to?
No, I have a comprehensive collection, which includes photography, collage, and sculpture. I recently purchased a sculpture by Chris Coy. The idea for this sculpture was inspired by Coy’s ongoing interest in Rococo and Baroque art. His use of three-dimensional printing to create this magnificent piece intrigued me, and it has become the most talked-about piece of art in my collection.

What inspires you to help others (in general)? You give so much of yourself, your support, and your time.
It’s a lifestyle. I am a people person; I love the energy that’s created when I openly support and like an artist or a friend.

Are you involved in additional art shows/exhibitions?
Through a grant funding project called VIA, I am always aware and have the privilege of hearing about both small and extensive projects looking for funding. I also am an annual visitor to Art Basel Miami, Frieze New York, and Venice Biennale among others, and of course being a native Angeleno, I visit the galleries and shows as much as I possibly can. As a board member of the Phase One Foundation, I also produce an annual event called Art Vs. Cancer, which is a fun event and fundraiser. The event supports the cost of critical phase one clinical trial for all types of cancer. This year the event will be November 13th at Various Small Fires.

Did you always want to be an artist, and did this influence your decision to support other emerging artists?
Yes, and yes!

How do you encourage an artist when you see he/she doubting or thinking of giving up?
The most important thing I can do is continue to encourage and try to redirect emotions when they land in a negative space. Sometimes getting out of the studio and visiting some museums can re-inspire anyone,
including the artists that are my friends.

We will be watching the next chapter for Diane Allen and can’t wait! To follow her ventures on social media:

Instagram: @dianeallen23

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