July 26, 2017
By Jody Hume
#REALREALEXPERTS: MEET OUR HOME & ART CURATOR
If you shop The RealReal obsessively like we do, what you see every day is a parade of the most coveted luxury pieces in fashion, jewelry, art and home decor dancing before you on your screen. What you don’t always see are the people behind the scenes. Specifically, the people whose job it is to ensure that all of those amazing pieces are 100% authentic. But we have over 40 people on the team who do just that, from luxury brand experts to horologists to gemologists and curators. With our #RealRealExperts series, we’re introducing them to you. First up: Clementine Bernard, Art & Home Valuation Manager. Get to know how she became seriously schooled in art history, her home decor m.o., how she helps clients consign and more.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am the Art and Home Valuation Manager here at The RealReal in the New York region. I meet with clients in their homes to give them free valuations of their home decor and fine art pieces, and to help them consign if they wish. I use my expertise in art history and design to inspect each piece and confirm its authenticity and also to inform clients about the resale value of their pieces on the site. I grew up among various cultures in Paris; my mother is Chinese and grew up in the US, and my father is French. I moved to NYC about five years ago to pursue my degree in Fine Art, and I’ve been enjoying every single bit of the New York life since I moved here!
What is your background in fine art and home decor?
I studied at the Sorbonne University and had the wonderful opportunity to do a double Masters degree with Columbia University here. I specialized in the 19th century Romantic period in Europe, and broadened my studies later on to Contemporary Art.
How did you become interested in the field?
Growing up in Paris meant that you were constantly exposed to museums, architecture and design. I could not have dreamt of a better environment to grow up in. I think my desire to study Art History came pretty naturally, maybe simply by strolling in the streets and lifting my eyes up! More than that, I grew up in a family of observers and passionate collectors (my mother is an expert in Chinese porcelain).
What is a typical day at The RealReal like for you?
I run all over in the city! I tend to book between two to four appointments a day with our consignors, I head to their homes and I have to admit that they usually offer a very warm welcome! We go through the pieces they’re interested in consigning together: artworks, furniture, tabletop and decor pieces. I get to learn a lot about their pieces, and building relations with our consignors is the fun part of the job (other than seeing beautiful pieces and homes!). I try to squeeze in a few hours at the office every day, which allows me to open some books and dig into some research.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
It’s a question that people often ask Art Historians and I think it’s one of the toughest ones to answer! Can I admit that my tastes have often changed over the years? I have admired the German Expressionists painters for a long time; Egon Schiele for his torments and despair, and Max Pechstein for his coarse combination of colors.
What is your approach to home decor and decorating a space?
My tastes in decor are pretty classical; I love neutrals with slight touches of color. I also love the idea of building a space around one central piece, whether a painting or a piece of furniture, but it’s so hard in a city like New York! Space is crucial around here, and it’s rare to have the possibility to do so.
What are some of the most remarkable pieces we have gotten in recently at The RealReal?
Funny you ask, we just launched a wonderful wall sculpture by British artist Tracey Emin on the website, which reads the words ‘Trust Yourself’ in bright neon. Emin is known for her wide range of mediums, all representational of very self-critical work. We have also recently listed ‘Underwater Nude’ by American photographer Brett Weston. This work was produced during the late 1970s and is remarkable for the vibrant lighting strikingly piercing the water.
Do you have any prized home/art pieces in your space? Tell us about them?
A couple years ago I purchased from The RealReal a self-portrait by French artist Leonor Fini. She’s not immensely famous, but she’s one of the rare women who have belonged to the Surrealist movement. She surrounded herself with the most notorious artists of the time; Paul Eluard, Salvador Dali, Max Ernst… and I see her today as a formidable precursor and avant-gardiste (although she was sadly never really acknowledged by the main actors of the Surrealist movement).
If you could invest in one dream item, what would it be?
To own the Louvre Collection, or the Villa Borghese, naturally, ha! I just wish to always have the possibility to travel and keep seeing these beautiful artworks, sculptures and design. Pretty realistically, I’ll most likely never own an original Klimt, so might as well just ask to be able to observe a Klimt from a close distance, and study it. Basically, my dream is to always see the pieces I read or hear about, and not just sit behind a computer and Google images.
What are you doing when you’re not at work?
I try to spend as much time with my friends and family as I can. I like to gather around a meal, drink wine and share ideas. Both the Mediterranean and the Chinese culture want us to gather our spirits and share moments together. Nothing is worth being lived alone, and I persistently believe that conviviality is one of the keys to a happier life.
Interested in scheduling a free in-home valuation appointment with Clementine for your home decor and art pieces? Contact us here.
Photos by Aimee Brodeur