Wendy Olsoff ‘78, founder of PPOW, was back on campus in February, leading a discussion on “Art and the Real World” at Houghton House.
PPOW was founded in 1983 by Olsoff and Penny Pilkington during the first wave of the East-Village Art Science in New York City. Since then their gallery has moved multiple times and today is located in Chelsea. Olsoff’s advice for student’s looking to become involved in the industry was to “be prepared to work hard and long for little pay – but learn a lot and meet interesting people!”
The mission of the gallery is to show contemporary work in all media with a commitment to representational painting and sculpture. In particular, the gallery seeks to highlight the work of artists whose work contains social and political content.
“We have maintained this focus because it comes from our roots and has defined the gallery from the first show” explained Olsoff. “Art is often a precursor of change. It is exciting to put forth ideas before they are commonly accepted. Gay marriage, civil rights and woman’s rights were in very different places when we opened – the artists we showed helped bring these walls down. It is exciting to be on the forefront of what you believe in.”
This powerful mission along with their diverse roster of national and international artists has helped push the gallery into the national spotlight. In recent years, the PPOW has been profiled in magazines such as New York Magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. One New York Times article describes the gallery as “showing some of the most thoughtful politically and socially engaged art around.”
Olsoff said her time at Hobart and William Smith Colleges continues to help shape her career. “The art history classes of Professor of Art and Architecture Elena Ciletti were the hook that made me love art history.” Being an English major has also proved to be useful given the huge amount of writing that she does as an art dealer.
Her No. 1 piece of advice for students: “Sometimes take what you love and find your career -rather than career first.”