Art Buyer Insider: A celebration of art buying featuring Ilona Siller of DraftFCB NY

Ilona Siller - Draft FCB/NY

So often people want to know the story behind the photographer or the creative on a project, but what about the art buyer?  Art buying is such an interesting job to say the least. The people I know in this position come from such rich and diverse backgrounds and rarely do they follow the same path to become one.  Understanding this, I thought it would be fun to start a series of interviews with art buyers that don’t just address how to get their attention, but instead celebrate the art buyer but for who they are, where they came from and what is important in their life.

To ensure that these interviews were a bit more substantial, I enlisted the help of Alison McCreery of POP Blog.  Her interviews are always compelling and offer a unique perspective on the talented individual featured.    She was a perfect match for Ilona Siller, Associate Art Producer at Draft FCB/NY, our first interviewee.  They met in NY one winter afternoon and shared lunch and some conversation.

For those of you who do not know Ilona, find her on Facebook, she is a joy to follow.  Her Russian heritage, love for her daughter and connection to her city make her perspective on life so totally unique.

Here is what she shared with us.

What was your path to becoming an Art Buyer and what was that first moment of inspiration when you knew you would work in a creative position?

My background is a degree in psychology, casting and making a feature documentary film. I came to art buying by an accident, but it is truly is my calling. I am one of those people that is not really creatively amazing at anything, but I have a gut intuition that is dead on about what IS creatively amazing. I guess my only talent is to know what is good.:)

The first day in art buying department my boss Lucy Raimengia asked me to do a search for some potential photographers for AVON job. I wanted to impress her so I spent hours looking at every single art agency link I can find. I remember thinking to myself: “Wow, this is my job. Sitting in an air conditioned office, looking at beautiful art. AND I get a paycheck?!?!?”. I was nearly in tears at how lucky I was. Now, if I ever get jaded and attempt to complain…I always bring myself back to that first day and the sheer wonder in my eyes.

What accounts are you currently working on?

Lots and lots of babies lately. Gerber, OREO…J

Growing up, what were your creative interests?

I lived in my imagination. I didn’t quite know that real world existed until I was about 16. What a rude awakening that was.

Did you ever consider becoming a photographer yourself?

No, I am not so naïve to think that all it takes is a good camera. And I am too lazy to invest the time and energy that it requires.

I do believe however that on occasion, and without training, you can take a brilliant picture with your I-phone if you have a magical connect with your subject. The best pictures I’ve ever taken are of my daughter simply because we have an unspoken bond.

Where do you look for inspiration? Stay inspired?

I live in New York. Every day is a sensory overload of faces and colors and textures. I like to take mental pictures of all that and then listen to music on my I-pod. It’s kind of like making my own music video…daily.

Do you have a personal aesthetic that comes through in the photographers whose work you are drawn to?

Absolutely. It  is to learn to separate my personal taste from what the client needs and wants. I also believe in meeting photographers for a sheer fact that a good percentage of the experience is what kind of person photographer is. They can be brilliant but hard to work with which is very unfortunate.

What do you think is important to do in your personal time to keep you inspired at work?

Play music often, dance alone, befriend a kid.

What do you love about your job?

That it inspires more way more than drains me.

What one word describes your style as an art buyer?


Ilona Siller

 If you could change one thing in the creative industry right now, what would that be?

More human contact, less email. But that is naïve because I will get nothing done.:)

If you could tell photographers one thing, what would it be?

When you call me for a “meeting” know that I am much more honored and excited to meet you than you are to meet me.

Words of advice to junior designers/creatives?

I am here to make sure that your vision comes to life, so every detail in your mind is important to me.

One promo currently up in your office?

That’s funny. My office should be called “The promo”.

Ilona Siller

What are you known for at Draft?

I have a very dry, Russian, “I survived communism” sense of humor that has a potential to get me in a lot of trouble.

How do you describe your job to your mother or someone not in our industry?

My mother: “So, do you actually shoot the ads?”

Me: “No”

My mother: “Do you come up with the concept?”

Me: “No”

My mother:” So, what do you actually do?”

Me sheepishly: “I am not quite sure.”

Art that you find most inspiring?

Music. I am a long time fan of Sigur Ros, Bjork, Massive Attack and Radiohead. My new New York discovery is Alastair Ottesen.

What at the moment do you see happening in the culture that you find inspiring or interesting?

Not to be a downer, but I actually think that with all the insane technology out there, we kind of forgot to stare and talk to each other, which is where most creative inspiration comes from. Sorry, what was the question? (staring at her Blackberry):)

Favorite films, books, music, dance?

Please refer to my Playboy layout for all the “likes” and “dislikes”J. Yep… there is that sense of humor and a call to HR.:)

Favorite way to spend a Sunday?

Lingering breakfast with chaos that only comes from “family”, wondering the city with my 3 year old while discussing relatively grown up subjects, late dinner with my husband, bottle of wine  (each) with a couple of friends.

Latest discovery?


Thank you Alison McCreery of POP Blog for all of your help making this interview possible.

7 thoughts on “Art Buyer Insider: A celebration of art buying featuring Ilona Siller of DraftFCB NY

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  3. A most interesting interview.
    I wish my work would be contemplated for use in advertising.
    Unfortunately my time is spent in the studio. I am on BB now because I am putting tyres on my car. So I thought I would google for art buyers. I will definitely stay tuned to this site.

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