Interview with Katrine Levin, UK & Italy
Hi Katrine, what is your one superpower?
The knowledge that you can do anything anywhere.
You must have a pretty broad comfort zone to be at ease anywhere.
Not exactly. It's a regular size comfort zone. I spent a lot of time in it. I was an IP attorney for 15 years, which involves sitting behind a desk and solving logical puzzles for the most part. This was definitely in my comfort zone because I'm an introvert. When I left law and launched an art gallery, my comfort zone took some significant blows.
How does an introvert go into the business of Exhibitions?
experiencing my own discomfort was no reason to stop
When I first started, I was overwhelmed because I was doing things that didn't come naturally to me, which is gathering and interacting with large groups of people. I was quite stressed, and the pressure even took at toll on my body. But the work was fascinating to me. So different than what I was doing with law. And experiencing my own discomfort was no reason to stop.
Did your family know that your new career was affecting you this way?
this practice took me to a whole new level
This situation pushed me to find coping solutions. But it was my mother who literally put some books in front of me, which led me to meditate. As I started meditating I felt much better about what I was doing, stressing less about things. To be honest, this practice took me to a whole new level, not only work-wise, but personally, too. The way I relate to the world and my general level of happiness improved.
If not for that first difficult year, I wouldn’t have grown as a human being.
Do you ask for help when you need it?
sometimes all you have to do is recognize help and let it in
The responsibility of getting myself out of a bind is on me. That’s never outside. But I do look to learn from other people, and sometimes all you have to do is recognize help and let it in. I remember, during that first difficult year with the gallery, someone I didn't know on twitter sent me an unusual note. It was about liking the aura of my gallery and its purpose of showing art "from places less explored." For some reason the aura comment really spoke to me, and we had a brief exchange that was unexpectedly up-lifting and encouraging.
Speaking of courage, it's courageous to make a big change mid-career. Are you adventurous?
I met inspiring artists whose work I loved, and wanted to bring to the west
I'd say I'm more curious. I love exploring. I'm not afraid to make a move, and can be comfortable on my own. But the career move was a gradual thing. We relocated to England from New York, where I had my own law practice. I then had a choice -- to start from scratch in law or do something entirely different. I went back to school and got a masters in Art History, but it was not my goal to open a gallery. Through a set of circumstances I met inspiring artists, whose work I loved and wanted to bring to the west. That's how the gallery was born.
What characteristics do you look for in people who become your friends?
it's more about looking through to find a good human being
A sense of humor is important. Life demands it. Beyond that, my friends are so very different that I'm not sure there is one vein that runs through them. It's not that I look for anything, it's more about looking through to find a good human being. Some of my friends are characters and can even be difficult, but all I need to see is someone who genuinely wishes other people well.
It sounds like you're a very accepting as a person. What triggers you?
We’re all working through something
I’m a pretty laid back, happy person, generally. The only thing I don't do well with is "drama." It's not that bad things don't happen to me. I do get triggered, but I work very hard to step back and try to assess, and figure out what to do without creating or inflicting drama on others. We’re all working through something, and I appreciate people who tend not to get upended or create a lot of turbulence about things that are manageable and fixable.
That speaks to a certain resiliency? Where does that come from?
Going back to childhood, I think immigrating from the former USSR must have left a mark. But we're always evolving. Just look at my experience of starting the gallery. That was a real challenge that taught me to cope and forced me to change a lot as an adult.
Let's talk different cultures. You've experienced a few first hand. Tell me what do you love about each?
the minute things go sideways, they find the silver lining.
I love the warmth and joy of Italians. Recently I heard an anecdote where a cop stopped a car and asked the driver if he had been drinking. "Yes," says the driver, "5 glasses of wine with dinner." "That’s a lot," says the cop. "But I also ate a lot of pasta to soak it up," says the man. "Well, in that case..." and lets him go. I also love the sarcastic humor of Brits. No matter what happens, what calamity, they'll always find something funny. New Yorkers are a very resilient bunch, which I so admire. Russians are sooo different. They're all doom and gloom when things are status quo, but the minute things go sideways, they find the silver lining and unleash their sense of humor.
Speaking of things going sideways, how are you and people close to you dealing with COVID?
I think there’s been a lot of suffering. Along with very difficult circumstances, I also think this may be time for self reflection. Many of us tend to run from one thing to another... kids, business, entertainment, escape. I hope we can come out of this with a little more introspection, a little more at peace with ourselves than we came in with. I also think we are going to shift to being more virtual than ever before for things we used to do in person.
People are essentially social creatures. How do you think this will change us?
You could live life more on your own terms.
It depends how long we will be in this situation. I think, to some extent, this will bring us closer. Take virtual happy hours, for example. By the time we’re allowed to drink in the flesh, we are going to appreciate it much, much more. Also broader acceptance of virtual work will lead to a better work-life balance at a more sane pace. You won't need to be on someone else’s clock or try to impress your boss with your long hours at the office as a show of productivity. You could live life more on your own terms. This could lead to more people being in a good place.
Well I tried hard to bring you down, but it just didn't work. So, I'll ask an easy question: What have you got planned for the rest of your life?
I already have something in mind, but don’t want to reveal it yet
I ’d like to finish establishing the artists from Georgia and Asia. I’d like to continue work on a film production company I started with a friend and do a lot of interesting projects together. And I’d like to write a non-fiction book. I already have something in mind, but don’t want to reveal it yet.
I have no doubt that you will. Now, I'm going to give you 5 questions, which you have to answer very quickly with one or two words. Ready?
What offends you?
What’s one lesson do you feel most qualified to teach another person?
What makes you cringe?
When you're at your best, you're...
What change are you working on?
To be happy
Thanks so much, Katrine. Where can people reach you?
Please visit me at Katrinelevin.com