The Art of Conversation: Behind the Scenes with Salon 21's Alex Bass

The Art of Conversation: Behind the Scenes with Salon 21's Alex Bass
Credit: Moriah Sawtelle. Provided courtesy of Salon 21.

While studying studio art and art history as an undergrad at Columbia University, Alex Bass developed a fondness for the times when artists and other creatives gathered in person to exchange ideas. This gave her a business idea. “I wanted to bring back this mode of communicating and socializing around a shared love of art to NYC to the 21st century,” she said.

After graduating college, Alex began a career in the art industry and pursued a master’s degree from Sotheby’s Institute of Art in art business. Her experience and education prepared her to open her dream business in September 2023—Salon 21, a fine art and interior design studio. Located in downtown New York City, the space is a hub for emerging creative talent and hosts rotating art and design exhibitions. Salon 21 also brings people together with programming, including dinner and cocktail parties, panel discussions, brand pop-ups and more. We chatted with Alex to learn more about her path to art entrepreneurship.

When did you decide to bring your idea for Studio 21 to life?

When I began to share my idea with others and I saw them understand what I was going for, that is when I felt like I was onto something. I think especially coming out of the pandemic, we have an even stronger human desire to socialize in person than before, and not just do what we did before but seek out more meaningful and personalized experiences, because now we are more mindful and decisive about how we spend our time.

Credit: Salon 21.

How do you define success for your business?

Connecting with other creatives has been the highlight of opening Salon 21 thus far. Building a community in a short time has brought me the most joy and makes me feel like Salon 21 is on a great path.

Where do you find inspiration?

Oh from all over—from history, specifically art history, new art, architecture and more!

What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you first started your business?

People who come on really strong in the beginning with words of affirmation are normally the most disappointing. Not every opportunity makes sense for your business, and you need to be choosy.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start selling their art or creative product?

Make sure you’re filling a void in the market and not adding to what is already out there. Differentiation is key.

Credit: Moriah Sawtelle. Provided courtesy of Salon 21.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I don’t know how surprising this is, but I’ve always been very entrepreneurial. As a kid, I was obsessed with my Fisher Price cash register to make my family pretend to purchase things in our home.

As creatives, we can continuously refine our art. How do you handle perfectionism?

I am by nature a perfectionist, but I’ve learned that we see way more ‘mistakes’ than others do. If I’m starting to feel burned out, I tell myself that I’ve done my best. We can’t push ourselves to the limits every day; otherwise, we won’t be able to keep performing and being creative.

What’s something that surprised you about running a creative business?

How many supportive people there are!

What advice would you give to someone about handling the highs and lows of running a business?

Celebrate the highs and let the lows be a learning experience, and keep moving forward!

Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?

Of course! Take criticism with a grain of salt, but also use it to question what you’re doing and see if you can improve upon it, but never let that take away from your core message or integrity.

What’s a cause you are passionate about, and why?

So many! First and foremost, arts education in public schools. The arts are extremely underfunded in the US. An organization that I deeply care about and volunteer with is Free Arts NYC through their Creative Lab teen mentoring program.

Can you share the name of a supplier or vendor that you use for your business that you just love—one that makes running your business a bit easier?

My friend Abby runs an amazing store called Abbode, and she embroiders all sorts of things—from cocktail napkins to baseball caps. I’ve had her make a lot of amazing merchandise for my business!

Credit: Moriah Sawtelle. Provided courtesy of Salon 21.

What brings you joy?

Watching people have meaningful conversations at Salon 21 and making new friendships.

Thanks, Alex. You can learn more about Salon 21 at

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