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Creative Minds; Business Brains: Michael Doohan, Co-Founder of Woodbury House Contemporary Art

Pride of place on my wall at home is a Harland Miller print that we bought as the finishing touch to a flat renovation that emotionally (not to mention financially) almost killed me. The renovation itself is a whole different story, but how I got the art, a really nice one. One of my WGSN colleagues had posted the print on her Instagram feed as a regram from a gallery she followed, which I duly liked, and then asked her (IRL) where the gallery was. It turned out, quite by coincidence, the boyfriend of another of the girls in the office knew the gallery owner, who managed to snag me a discount. Fast forward to a few months later and that image I had hearted on my iPhone was up on my newly stripped, brick living room wall. That’s how we buy art today.

The brother-and-sister duo behind Woodbury House are more than aware of that.

The business, which operates out of Soho, London, might not be where I found my Harland Miller, but Michael and his sister Caitriona understand that those of us who are new to this whole business, and really just want something cool and meaningful for our walls, rather than a family investment piece, need a new way of discovering art. And so Woodbury House was born, finding new, up-and-coming artists, and giving them a global platform to get their name out there, and find new customers.

Michael – just 28 and already something of a name on the art scene – told me how he does it.

How do you describe what do you do for a living?

I’m an art dealer

What’s behind the success of your business?

I have a very good team around me – we are all very goal driven and share a clear vision

Tell me about a failure, and what you learnt from it…

I set up a business for online personal training when I was 19. I went in blind and thought I had cracked it; I put all my savings into it and was way too sure of myself. I lost everything and felt defeated – it was a real lesson.

Do you believe in light-bulb moments?

I do, and I believe that they come much easier and more frequently when you surround yourself with like-minded people

Where do you do your best thinking?

After a morning run, or when I travel

When you get creative block, where do you turn for inspiration?

Books, like The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, as well as mentors and my team

How do you celebrate?

With a bottle Sassicia 2009

Who or what makes you most happy?

Seeing the people around me progress and succeed

And saddest?

Mediocrity

What would be your best advice for today’s 16-year-olds?

There are more successful and inspirational people in the world today then ever before. If they can do it, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t. Work harder than anyone else, set goals and believe in yourself

Can creativity be taught?

Not directly, but it can certainly be brought out of people

And what about business nous?

Nothing will teach you more than making mistakes

What constantly surprises you about the world at large?

Anything is possible

What is the biggest change we’ll see in business in the next 5 to 10 years?

You will be able to book a self driving uber, buy a house without an estate agent and purchase a masterpiece of art with the use of an app from the comfort of your own home

What are we losing that we’ll regret?

The personal touch

What’s your best prediction for 2030?

The art market won’t be controlled by a small few – artists will have the power to make a name for themselves and get their work out there using social media and virtual reality.

 

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