Building a Collection

Charlotte Newman ’04

Charlotte Newman ’04

Charlotte Newman ’04 stands in front of Crossword, 2017, by Mequitta Ahuja, and Flamingo, 2018, by Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum. 
Photo by Anjani Husbands

As head of financial services public policy in the Americas for Amazon Web Services, Charlotte Newman ’04 spends her work hours engaging with finance ministers, central bank presidents, and customers to enable digital transformation and cloud adoption in the financial-services sector. In her personal time, however, she meets with artists, galleries, and museums as she builds an art collection full of works by emerging young artists and lends her pieces for exhibition.

When Charlotte arrived at Wellesley, she planned to focus on international studies. By the end of her sophomore year, however, she began to gravitate toward art history, only natural given the creativity she was surrounded by during her childhood in Atlanta. Charlotte’s godmother, Tina Dunkley, is an artist, and Charlotte grew up going to her openings and spending time around her art and circle of creativity. After graduating with an art history major, Charlotte joined the Teach for America program in Atlanta. She left teaching feeling she could make the greatest impact for change by moving to Washington, D.C., to work in policy and politics. She worked in multiple jobs on Capitol Hill, including serving as economic advisor to Sen. Cory Booker, and also earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

While Charlotte’s career is now focused on technology and public policy, her personal life is dedicated to her passion for art and the development of her collection of contemporary works. “I spend most of my personal time going to art fairs, exhibitions, and connecting with artists,” she says. When time allows, she visits galleries, artists, and fairs both in the U.S. and abroad. Her work and personal travel has also allowed her to collect outside of the U.S. In addition to the traditional means of collecting, she also embraces Instagram as a tool to discover new work from emerging artists and students at leading M.F.A. programs.

A forward-thinking collector, she is keenly attuned to supporting the development of young, emerging artists and takes her role in the art world seriously. “As a collector, I find it important to be a good actor in the space and spend time talking to artists, whether I have their work or not,” she says. Relationships are key, and she seeks to “build genuine connections with artists whose work I support and whose work inspires me.”

Charlotte’s collection currently consists of more than 30 works. Recent acquisitions include Caitlin Cherry’s largescale painting Black Sun, 2019, featuring an African American female rapper as viewed through the moiré of a digital screen, and several works by Motswan and Canadian artist Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum. Charlotte recently commissioned Homage to the Black Woman, 2019, by rising star Vaughn Spann, collaborating with him on the colors used in one of the large “X” paintings for which he is known.

Two elements drive Charlotte’s collecting decisions: supporting women artists and artists of color and connecting to art that “speaks to her.” She has a natural affinity for “artists that explore issues … like race, gender, sexuality.” She also tries to balance supporting American artists with those based in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Latin America.

Charlotte hopes to encourage more young professional women and people of color like herself to collect. “There are times I am at openings or fairs where I am the only young woman of color,” she observes. “A lot of people don’t think of collecting. They assume they don’t have the resources to do it, or that it’s something they will do in 20 years.” She sees collecting as something more accessible than it may seem, and encourages young alumnae who appreciate art and go to museums to support artists and buy original work. Preconceived notions of price or formality need not be a deterrent. “There are lots of ways you can collect,” she says.

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