Those who have witnessed the growth of Fort Lauderdale’s MASS District have Mary Ann Cohen, in part, to thank for its dramatic transformation.
She attended The School of Visual Arts in New York City but later decided she didn’t necessarily want to paint for a living. At the time, her then-boyfriend (now her husband, Richard) was working in the movie industry in California, so she started a life with him on the West Coast. Over the years, she took on numerous jobs, including teaching in L.A., opening a Malibu gallery, and working for a publishing company. She eventually became a national art dealer in 1992 and today is a prominent player in South Florida’s fine art scene.
Cohen opened MAC Fine Art in what would soon be coined the MASS District in 2014. “It just was amazing how it happened,” Cohen remembers. She embraced building up the district, developing her own art walks, and hiring muralists who painted at many locations in or around the Fourth Avenue gallery.
Inside MAC Fine Art, the artworks vary from artists such as René Romero Schuler, Frank Arnold, and Jason Myers. In addition to her gallery in Broward, she operates MAC Art Galleries in Jupiter and will open a Delray Beach locale on November 20. Here, she shares insight into her process and tips for buying art.
FLI: How do you choose the artists you feature?
Cohen: I know it when I see it. I’ve gotten some artists because I got so excited with what they were doing, and no one was buying it. I get them in a lot of different ways. Usually, I search out who I want, or I find out through a friend, or I find out through a collector who says, “I really like this guy’s work.”
Besides curating art, how else do you support artists?
A lot of what I do is art direction, support for the artists, things that I did when I was teaching school. A lot of those fundamentals are there because I understand what everyone is doing. There’s a big difference when the person who is selling your art knows how you put it together and can describe it. People from all over will say, “What do you think of my work?” People always ask me because they know I’m going to give them a real review.
What’s the right way to buy art?
I think people don’t always trust themselves. Think outside the box. Go bolder than you were going to go, and go for something that really excites you. A lot of people buy what their designer tells them to buy, but I’m like, “No, she’s not waking up in your house every day.” I free them up, and I get them to trust and develop their taste.
Why is art important?
Some people ask why would you spend money on fine art? Well, without it, you don’t have much. Everybody’s house is beautiful, but do you think people walk into your house and say, “Oh, that’s an amazing sofa?” Nobody cares. You can buy it anywhere. It’s what you have on your walls.