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Industry Insider: Catinca Tabacaru

With a master’s degree in international law and a run as a successful litigation lawyer; time with the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Office of the Chief Defense Counsel for the Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and founding the organization Women’s Voices Now, Catinca Tabacaru is no stranger to stepping outside of her comfort zone. Now the owner and curator of an eponymous New York City art gallery, she gets to indulge what she considered a matter of destiny. “The moment I dipped my toe into the art world I felt compelled to submerge myself completely. I am free … free to create, to love, to spend my time as I choose, to take risks. I literally create new universes on a monthly basis.” —Jennifer Henderson

Her style story: “My mother used to force me into dresses when I was a girl, and I fought her every step of the way. I preferred running around in shorts and bare feet. Luckily ‘tomboy’ is in now.”

Her aesthetic: “I’m eclectic. I can go from minimal lines to bright colors and digital flowers in a breath. What’s most important to me is that the work and the human making it are unique and unconstrained by rules. At the gallery, I try to cultivate authenticity and fearlessness first and foremost.”

Her work ethic: “I fancy myself honest and dedicated. I asked Raphy, who works with me at the gallery, and she said this: ‘You do what you say. You’re very particular, aggressive, hard-working, and not a boss but a leader.’”

Her crossroads: “One day I decided I didn’t care what the cool kids thought and I was just going to do my best in a way that felt authentic to my life. It was similar to the decision I made in the seventh grade; amazingly, it’s equally difficult as an adult.”

Her look: “Funky with a side of Chanel boots. Raphy replied, ‘From where Darth Vader grew up.’ I’m telling you, you’re interviewing the wrong person.”

Her POV: “I could not begin to guess what the key to success is. I doubt such a thing exists. For me, it’s the unwavering belief in my own self-worth and capacity. I can’t imagine a world where I’m not successful. That belief, imagined or real, gets me through the most difficult and discouraging times.”

Her must-haves: “Mascara and blush, my friends, adventure, art, the band Gotan Project. This isn’t a fair question because I think life is very cool and I like a lot of things.”

Her required reading: “I’m reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind right now and it’s blowing my mind.”

Her true beauty: “It’s connected to kindness and openness for me. That poetic element that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you know it when you see it … like love.”

Her social circle: “The gallery’s Instagram feed is pretty exciting. My other go-to’s are Julia Dimon and Mumboss.”

Her maxim: “It’s important to act. When I put my mind to doing something, I just do it, especially when it has the extra oomph of supporting another person. My affair with skydiving was probably the most impactful: I remember standing at the open door of the plane and thinking that the last thing I wanted to do in the whole world was jump. But I did it anyway and it taught me that you can do anything, even if you’re scared to bits.”

Her perfect plate: “I’m a vegan who loves a porterhouse every so often. I’m full of contradictions—you can’t pull favorites out of me.”

Her treasure: “Tamba, this little toy monkey I’ve had since the day I lost my first tooth. Every time I see her, I remember that I was a kid once and life is ever-changing. Also the portrait Justin Orvis Steimer just painted of me. He captured my soul.”

Her two cents: “‘Your best is to do something you can’t control,’ to quote Tony Shafrazi. I don’t know that I’ve totally unlocked the true meaning of this advice, but I know there’s magic in those words and one day the ‘eureka!’ light bulb will go on.”

Her future: “Growth. Adventure. Love. Babies—of the body and the mind. We’ve formed the CTG Collective, which builds installations and collaborates on projects around the world. In the gallery, I have Greg Haberny: a rebellious, rock-star artist who burns his work to make ash fingerpaint for future paintings. The spoiler alert is that we’re covering the gallery floor in ashes and white flowers. Magic!”