Verve catches up with prominent Auckland businesswoman and art world extraordinaire Fran Davies, director of Parnell’s International Art Centre.
“For as long as I can remember, art has been a focal point of my life,” reveals Fran. “I just find it so enriching, so enjoyable. It fascinates me. I’m a lifelong student of art history.”
As a young girl, Fran “always dreamt of travelling”. “My grandfather was half-Italian and I always imagined spending time there,” she says. “Thinking about it now, all those childhood wishes have been granted, and more.”
Having first trained as a journalist, Fran made the move to London in her early twenties where she lived for many years before returning to Auckland and eventually joining the International Art Centre, a “family business” established by her parents Joan and Grahame Chote, a serendipitous aligning of the stars.
“At every stage of my life, I’ve received a great deal of kindness and positive encouragement, often from expected sources,” Fran says. “It has been a great foundation to build upon.”
Luke Davies, Fran Davies and Richard Thomson
She “truly has no regrets in life”, believing looking back to be pointless as “that’s not the direction you’re heading in”, and feels fortunate to have had an abundance of female role models. “My mum was a fabulous person, generous with a great sense of style and humour,” Fran goes on. “The late Mary Brett, who ran the gallery working alongside my father for many years, I still find myself using some of her phrases when selling a painting. She was a gentle, gracious woman and an exceptional sales person who taught me a great deal.”
Fran also mentions Rosie Horton “for her valuable advice when I was in need of a little guidance” and Trish Young, a 20-year International Art Centre stalwart who “plays a key role in the ongoing evolution of our gallery”: “All of these women have contributed not only to the success of our business, but to the precious quality of my life in general.”
When it comes to the battle of the sexes in business, Fran doesn’t see things in terms of gender. “From my experience, when there is creative business collaboration, teamwork, between men and women, then everyone benefits,” she says. “Though of course, I love to see women doing well in business and life in general.”
‘Doing unto others, as you would have them do unto you’, Fran believes to be a solid mantra for life and business in general. She cites “clinking glasses with my business partner Richard Thomson” many years ago when they both became directors of International Art Centre as a standout memory, and “clinking glasses again when International Art Centre achieved the record auction price for a work by Charles Frederick Goldie”.
“There have just been so many great moments,” continues Fran. “We were thrilled to welcome President Clinton to the gallery, and send a Simon Williams painting to the White House, as well as doing business in Italy for the past 20 years and seeing those paintings be so well received by both our New Zealand and international clients. Most recently of course we opened the door to our fabulous new premises at 202 Parnell Road.”
Fran’s journalism background still comes in handy also. “I often write about specific art works sold or auctioned by International Art Centre,” she says. “It’s a bit like painting a picture with words.”