Just like Rent the Runway’s co-founders, there are a ton of women who have leapt into the uncharted, often-insane world of entrepreneurship. We’re inviting these risk-takers to be part of a community we’re calling The Real Runway: a collection of voices to motivate and inspire your own runway, whatever that may be.
It all started with... moving to DC.
Peggy Sparks believes art goes beyond the thrill of collecting physical pieces — that more importantly, it’s a gateway to conversations and experiences. So when the Singapore-born woman moved to DC, she decided to promote her message by opening her own gallery, Artist’s Proof.
Inside Artist's Proof. Dress; BCBGMAXAZRIA
In addition to selling emerging artists’ work, Peggy developed an experience to attract the art historian as much as the first-time buyer. She hosts workshops and talks as well as working the gallery floor. Peggy acts like a tour guide (an impeccably dressed one), informing visitors about the artists and how she found each piece. Her stories transport her clients to far corners of the world — no passport required.
How did you know it was the right time to open the gallery?
Everything always happens at the right time and the right place, doesn’t it? Before I moved here, I had always worked for someone else. I had consulted around the world, managed a gallery and had written about artists. What I hadn’t done was work for me. I wanted to be able to take ownership of all decisions, whether good or bad. I had a lot of access to art from around the world and had the opportunity to bring that to DC.
People think of art as unattainable and it shouldn’t be that way. Art can be $2. And art can be $20,000. You buy more than just the piece, you invest in your experience of procuring it and the story behind creating it.
Gown, BCBGMAXAZRIA; CLUTCH, LOEFFLER RANDALL
What did you think was “broken” about the art industry that led you to opening Artist's Proof?
There’s a market in DC that’s been unexposed to art. A lot of people have a tainted perception about the art-purchasing experience. I tried to create an atypical gallery environment here. We have a gallery dog, my puppy, Maggie. I offer things, like coffee or tea. I’m not an assertive person, so I’ve learned to use that to my advantage; I try to softly educate people and truly make art speak to my clients. I love telling people stories about work that they’ve never seen before. And it doesn’t end with a purchase for us. We don’t just give you work; we come to your home and help put it up on your wall and make sure that you’re happy with it.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
When you have your own business, it feels like your own baby. I've learned that you have to hire the best people and transfer ownership of things, so your focus can be on the business’s future and how to work towards it. You have to navigate between the big picture and micromanaging.
I was shocked by the unprecedented support I received in the US when I decided to start my own business. People here are invested in your success and help you get there. I've truly found that here more than anywhere else in the world. And that's an amazing thing.
How does style factor into being a gallery owner?
Being in the art industry, I think everything is about how you’re viewed. It’s not just what you show on the walls, it’s how you dress. Working in a gallery allows you the freedom to have your own style, but everyone that works here has to be dressed impeccably every day. That’s our brand.
DRESS, CUSHNIE ET OCHS; Bracelet, STANMORE; Sunglasses, Roberto Cavalli
Why is all the hard work worth it in the end? What’s your payoff?
Sometimes work can be tough, sure. Art is an acquired taste, right? It’s not like following a trend. There are no trends. We have a painting by an 89-year-old painter from Vietnam whose work sells for $40,000 now. To be able to tell his story, sell his work and educate ten different people about him, so they can tell ten more people about it... that’s an accomplishment.
Follow Artist's Proof