Episode 2 of “Ms. America,” the new TV show dramatizing the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment, features a glamorous party at the Guggenheim Museum. It is 1972 and Gloria Steinem launches her new magazine, Ms. She mingles, dances and then talks shop with another leader of the women’s movement, Bella Abzug. As the two walk up the ramp to the museum, works of art on the walls appear behind them.
Fanny Pereire, who spent more than a decade placing art in television and film productions, was essential to the making of this scene. Her nearly three dozen credits include the Oliver Stone film “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (2010), the all-female heist film “Ocean’s 8″ (2018), as well as the recent high-profile television series ” Billions, ”“ Estate ”and“ Ms. America, ”which debuted last month on Hulu and garnered critical acclaim (and continues through May).
“I create art collections for people who don’t exist,” Ms. Pereire likes to say. She imagines what Midwestern housewives or New York billionaires might hang on their walls, then grants herself the right to use actual and existing works or, more often, recreate them on set.
Ms. Pereire studied architecture and costume design at Bennington College. But it was an internship that became a job at Christie’s that prepared her for her future career. As part of the auction house’s public relations team, she worked with publications and assisted in the auction room at auctions. In the process, she studied not only art but also those who collect it – to understand how people use art to represent themselves.
It’s a lesson that served him well in his transition to the entertainment industry, which, after a string of copyright lawsuits by artists in the 1990s, began to pay more attention. upon obtaining an authorization. Ms. Pereire’s first gig in what would become her new role took place in 2002 on the set of the revenge drama “Changing Lanes”. Since then, productions have multiplied, as have requests for art: the Artists Rights Society, which manages many of these authorizations, has tripled in the last five years. In the process, this one-off mission has since become a full-fledged job: “fine arts coordinator”.
Ms. Pereire spoke by phone from her New York home about the joys and challenges of her job. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What’s your process?
I get a script, I get a character, like everyone else on the production team. The costume designer will suggest the costume; the decorator thinks about where they would live, what their office would look like. I put what they would have on their wall, and either that says something about who they are or what is going on in the scene.
I have to take all kinds of things into consideration: the time frame, what we’re trying to say, and the cost – I’m not going to put a million dollar chart on the wall for someone making $ 50,000 a year. I want it to be believable.
Are you looking in your own files for images that you have collected by seeing art over the years?
I have 57,128 photos and 810 videos on my computer. Also, I have Dropbox and other stuff – these are just pictures that I took.
Once you’ve created the art, what happens next?
I receive authorization from the artist or his representative, or from the estate. From there I have to get myself a really good digital file of the artwork. If it is a watercolor, it is reproduced on paper; if it is a canvas, it is reproduced on canvas. The performing artists in the art department will finish them off to make sure that if the camera gets close enough, it looks like the real thing.
It looks like you helped create the role of fine arts coordinator.
Yes a bit. But the thing is, for a long time, let’s say they wanted a de Kooning. They had to do something that somehow looked like a de Kooning, but not enough of a de Kooning for de Kooning to be able to say, “you have my painting and you haven’t asked for my permission.” So it ends up being just as energy intensive. It’s much easier to get permission for the real thing.
What was one of your best investments?
In “Changing Lanes”, Ben Affleck is at a turning point in his life. In front of his desk I put a painting by Alex Katz [“Harbor #9”] of that person walking on the beach. It was actually twice the size of what I had the wall for, but they allowed us to replicate it in the right proportion. At one point Affleck’s character it’s like, do i get away and go somewhere and walk on the beach? This painting was the perfect interpretation of what was going on in the character’s mind.
The Guggenheim scene in “Mrs. America ”takes place in the current museum. Did you use the art that was already on the walls?
Yes. It was sort of the chance of a lifetime. When the decorator called me, she knew I was going to jump up and down, because I had done other things at the Guggenheim, but never with Guggenheim artwork. She said, you’re gonna go with the location manager, and you’re gonna have to take a picture of each room for those two ramps [in the scene]. And then you’re going to have to clean each part and make sure that [it wasn’t] done after 1972. Anything that isn’t adequate for our script, you’re going to have to figure out what to do with it.
Is there a more important art to come in “Mrs. America”?
There’s another scene in episode 8, which is the women’s conference in Houston. I think it’s 1977 or ’79. In there I have two very big Rothkos. But they are reproductions, whereas at the Guggenheim they were original works of art.
How often do you use actual works versus reproductions?
At the Guggenheim, we had no choice, because they weren’t going to remove all of the artwork overnight so that we could shoot them and put them back in the morning. When we shoot in a location for a day or two, I either keep the artwork that’s there and look at it, or I borrow or rent original artwork. I certainly don’t want to have original artwork for a long time. But Aaron Young’s works in “Billions” ended up sticking around the entire season, and they were original. It took a special forklift to hook them up [and] no one could reach them because they were very high and far.
What’s one of the most important investments you’ve made?
In “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”, our character had a large collection of art. He had Richard Prince cowboys and Warhols, but also old masters. We wanted it to have something unique and invaluable, and Oliver [Stone] wanted something that everyone would know what it was. So I came with a Goya. There is a series of Goyas at the Prado, and there is one that has gotten lost over the years. You don’t really know what it looks like. And so, from my search for the drawings of the missing piece, we did the painting [a study for “Saturn Devouring His Son”].
We had five made because the character, at one point, with rage, slams the board and tears it with his teeth. Afterwards, actor Josh Brolin said, “I’m so sorry, I was really in the scene.” I said, “Don’t worry, we have a few more.” We ended up damaging three of them, I think, and I think Oliver has a copy and our producer still has a copy in his office.
What usually happens to reproductions when you are done with them?
At the end of the shoot, there is a whole other part of the process: the proof of destruction. sometimes [whoever licensed the work] will want us to return our official copies, or they will want proof of destruction, in which case I will destroy the artwork and send them pieces and photos of it being destroyed. Or I send them a video with one of us cutting it.
Did you have any particularly difficult or fun works to destroy?
In “Changing Lanes”, we reproduced a sculpture by Antony Gormley. We made it in enameled polystyrene to look like a matte metal. I remember asking the producer, how am I going to demonstrate destruction? He said, “Oh, let me do it. He asked the crane to pick up the sculpture and [drop it] from the top of the soundstage to the ground. It exploded to pieces. Then he handed me the video and said, now you can send it to your artist.
I remember sending it to Antony Gormley, then seeing it a few months later and introducing myself again. He was like, “Oh my God!” His wife was like, “You have no idea. He loves this video; he shows it to people when they come. Granted, that was 20 years ago, but I was so happy.