Monday, July 16, 2018

Today’s Most Vital Art Critic?

Is Hannah Gadsby, the Comedian Behind Netflix’s Viral Standup Special, Today’s Most Vital Art Critic?

At a time when the art world still hasn't quite figured out how to address icons who have done abominable things, Gadsby's special "Nanette" should be required viewing.
Hannah Gadsby. Still from Nanette on Netflix.
“You won’t hear too many extended sets about art history in a comedy show,” Hannah Gadsby says about three-quarters of the way through her now-viral Netflix stand-up special Nanette.
In the preceding 45 minutes, the art history student-turned-comedian has hit on high-culture topics including Vincent van Gogh’s mental illness (“He wasn’t born ahead of his time—he just couldn’t network”), the historical depiction of women (“Art history taught me that, historically, women didn’t have time to think thoughts—too busy napping naked alone in the forest”), and Picasso’s misogyny (“Aren’t we grateful that we live in a post-Cubism world? Isn’t that the first thing we write in our gratitude journals?”).
The Tasmanian comedian’s hour-long special has been widely praised, in large part because it actually becomes quite un-funny about halfway through. That’s when Gadsby sets out to explain why she is quitting comedy: Because punchlines are incapable of providing an honest, full accounting of an individual’s story.
Gadsby is interested in deconstructing the narratives that make our heroes—including artists and comedians—into hollow archetypes, from the starving, depressed creative to the tortured, virile genius. It feels refreshing, and necessary. And it’s a lesson that many museums, which have struggled to figure out how to contend with #metoo-era revelations about male artists’ bad behavior, would do well to take to heart.
Gadsby’s language is quite a bit more colorful than that of traditional art historians. To describe the depiction of women in the Renaissance, she quips: “If you go into the galleries, you’ll see that if a woman isn’t sporting a corset and/or a hymen, she just loses all structure.”
Nevertheless, her unexpected art criticism has managed to hit on a zeitgeist that the art world at large hasn’t quite yet figured out how to address or articulate. We’re still not sure what to do with our heroes once they are proven to be less than palatable.

Dismantling Van Gogh

Gadsby’s take on Van Gogh offers a good warm up. She recounts an exchange with a fan who suggested she should not take antidepressants because, as an artist, she shouldn’t elect to dull her emotions. “He said, ‘If Vincent van Gogh had taken medication, we wouldn’t have had the Sunflowers,’” she recalls.
Gadsby then proceeds to dismantle his claim, noting that Van Gogh painted several portraits of psychiatrists who were treating him. In Portrait of Dr. Gachet, the doctor is holding a foxglove, the plant from which the medication Van Gogh took for epilepsy derives.
Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1890). Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
“And that derivative of the foxglove plant, if you overdose a bit, you know what happens?” she asks, winding herself up, almost spitting out each word. “You can experience the color yellow a little too intensely. So perhaps we have the Sunflowers precisely because Van Gogh medicated.”
In the second half of her set, Gadsby revisits jokes and stories she told in the first half—but instead of telling them just for laughs, she considers them a bit more holistically. “You learn from the part of the story you focus on,” she says. “Take Vincent. The way we tell his story, it’s no good. We reduce him to a tale of rags to riches.”
Of course, that’s not really how it worked. By the time Van Gogh was celebrated by the art establishment, he was dead. Here’s how Gadsby puts it:
People believe that Van Gogh was just this misunderstood genius, born ahead of his time. What a load of shit. Nobody is born ahead of their time! It’s impossible. Maybe premie babies, but they catch up. Artists don’t invent zeitgeists, they respond to it….
[Van Gogh] was not ahead of his time. He was a post-Impressionist painter painting at the peak of post-Impressionism.
He had unstable energy, people crossed the street to avoid him. That’s why he didn’t sell any more than one painting in his lifetime.
This romanticizing of mental illness is ridiculous. It is not a ticket to genius. It’s a ticket to nowhere.
The mentally unstable creative is not the only heroic archetype Gadsby is out to deconstruct. In fact, it merely serves as a warm up to her most bracing art-historical analysis.

Picasso on the Chopping Block

In January, at the height of the #metoo movement, Jock Reynolds, the director of the Yale University Art Gallery, articulated a question that many museum directors were asking themselves at the time: How far should this re-evaluation of the work of abusive men go?
“At some point you have to ask yourself, is the art going to stand alone as something that needs to be seen?” Reynolds told the New York Times. “Pablo Picasso was one of the worst offenders of the 20th century in terms of his history with women. Are we going to take his work out of the galleries?”
In the context of that Times article, this question was almost rhetorical. Modernism is built on the back of Picasso. You can’t put that particular cat back in the frame.
Pablo Picasso in Mougins, France in October 1971. (RALPH GATTI/AFP/Getty Images)
But this is exactly what Gadsby is asking us to do: radically re-assess the most famous artist of the 20th century by contemporary moral standards. For me, this moment in the special marks a crescendo of feeling and a shift in tone—a moment when Gadsby wants to drive home her point much more than she wants to make you laugh, and comedy turns the corner into biting critique. Here is a slightly shortened version:
I hate Picasso. and you can’t make me like him. I know I should be more generous about him too, because he suffered a mental illness. But nobody knows that, because it doesn’t fit with his mythology. Picasso is sold to us as this passionate, tormented, genius, man-ball-sack. But Picasso suffered the mental illness…of misogyny.
Don’t believe me? He said, “Each time I leave a woman, I should burn her. Destroy the woman, you destroy the past she represents.” Cool guy. The greatest artist of the 20th century. Picasso fucked an underage girl. That’s it for me, not interested.
But Cubism! He made it! Marie-Thérèse Walter, she was 17 when they met: underage. Picasso, he was 42, at the height of his career. Does it matter? It actually does matter. But as Picasso said, “It was perfect—I was in my prime, she was in her prime.” I probably read that when I was 17. Do you know how grim that was?
(A brief fact check is in order: According to John Richardson’s famed biography of Picasso, the artist was actually 45, not 42, when he met Marie-Thérèse. I also could not independently confirm the exact language of the Picasso quote. Gadsby is right, however, about Marie-Thérèse being 17.)
Cubism is important. Picasso freed us from the slavery of having to reproduce three-dimensional reality on a two-dimensional surface. Picasso said, “You can have all the perspectives at once—from above, from below. All the perspectives at once!” What a hero. But tell me, are any of those perspectives a woman’s? Well, then, I’m not interested.
“Separate the man from the art. You gotta learn to separate the man from the art. The art is important, not the artist.” OK, let’s give it a go. How about you take Picasso’s name off his little paintings there and see how much his doodles are worth at auction? Nobody owns a circular lego nude. They own a Picasso.

A Closer Look

Is Gadsby right about Picasso? It’s worth noting that the incident she cites is not even the most disturbing anecdote available about Picasso’s treatment of women.
Indeed, he once extinguished his cigarette on the cheek of Francoise Gilot, according to her own account. And as Catherine Wagley recounts in a recent article for Good magazine, Picasso once took Caroline Blackwood, the first wife of Lucian Freud, onto his roof and lunged at her. Blackwood describes the encounter, and her own terror, in the kind of lurid detail that one can now no longer help but associate with the many exposes on Harvey Weinstein.
“All I felt was fear,” [Blackwood] recalled years later. “I kept saying, ‘Go down the stairs, go down.’ He said, ‘No, no, we are together above the roofs of Paris.’ It was so absurd, and to me, Picasso was just as old as the hills, an old letch, genius or no…. And to think how many people he had up there.”
As Jock Reynolds noted, these revelations are not new—they’re widely known elements of Picasso’s character. We just think about them differently now that we live in a society where they might be discussed in a Netflix special. Notably, stories about Bill Cosby’s abuse were also widely known, but rarely acknowledged until a pointed comedy set ignited a reckoning.
Pablo Picasso and his wife Jacqueline Roque at their home in Vallauris on October 22, 1961. (ANDRE VILLERS/AFP/Getty Images)
In the case of Picasso, if these anecdotes were told, they were often told in service of the romantic narrative of an obsessive, passionate, difficult artist whose tumultuous relationships with women were the necessary match to light his creative fire.
Even Marie-Thérèse seemed to view the dynamic this way. In a 1974 interview, one year after Picasso’s death and three years before she herself died by suicide, she would say: “That’s the way it is with him. He violates the woman first, then afterwards we work.”
Picasso expert John Richardson—whose four-volume biography is widely considered the gold standard of artist biographies—has done much to promote this narrative. “That whole business of the submissiveness of his women made for great art,” he said in a 2010 interview. He described several of Picasso’s partners’ willingness to sacrifice themselves on the altar of his art as “noble and wonderful.”
Gadsby, it is safe to say, would not agree. Toward the end of her set, she rivists Picasso.
I want my story heard because, ironically, I believe Picasso was right. I believe we could create a better world if we learned to see the world from all different perspectives—as many perspectives as we possibly could. Because diversity is strength. Difference is a teacher. Fear difference, you learn nothing.
Picasso’s mistake was his arrogance. He assumed he could represent all of the perspectives. And our mistake was to invalidate the perspective of a 17-year-old girl because we believed her potential would never equal his.
Hindsight is a gift. Stop wasting my time.
A 17-year-old girl is never in her prime. Ever. I am in my prime. Would you test your strength out on me?
A Netflix comedy special is not going to compel museums to throw out their Picassos. Nor should they! You can’t tell the story of 20th-century art without him. But Gadsby’s set does contain a challenge that museums and art historians would do well to take to heart: As she says, hindsight is a gift.
Hannah Gadsby. Still from Nanette on Netflix.
In other words, it’s not intellectually dishonest or unjust to reconsider artists in the context of contemporary moral standards. In fact, it’s more honest.
Although glossing over, whitewashing, or shoe-horning stories of Picasso’s abuse into a comfortable narrative about passionate genius may be useful to maintain his market value and his bankability as a tourist attraction, it also does everyone a disservice. It fuels the idea that artists are supposed to be moral exemplars and heroes—and then, when we are confronted with evidence that they are not, we don’t know what to do. The house of cards comes crashing down.
What happens when the story of Picasso isn’t entirely inspiring anymore? This is a question museums and mythmakers likely do not want to answer. A lot of art-world infrastructure depends on the notion that he, and other artists like him, are untouchable icons. It is unlikely, for example, that the Museum of Modern Art would have drawn as many crowds to its Picasso sculpture exhibition if he were presented not just as a man with “a lifelong commitment to constant reinvention,” but also as an abusive, terrible person.
I do not think, as Gadsby suggests, that we can do away with Picasso. We can’t change the fact that predators, liars, abusers—and even murderers, in the case of Caravaggio—are also some of our most influential artists.
But I do think we can understand Picasso’s contributions better if we can hold these two seemingly incompatible truths in our minds at once. It’s not as uplifting as a straightforward tale about a visionary creative whose flaws were only in service to its genius. But it is more honest—and it might even help us understand the evolution of our own culture, and how we got to where we are today, a lot better.
As Gadsby says in her special, “Artists are not these incredible mythical creatures that exist outside of the world. Artists have always been very much a part of the world and firmly attached to power.”

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The Whole Way of Collecting Has Changed

‘The Whole Way of Collecting Has Changed’: Christie’s Loïc Gouzer on the Regrettable Rise of the ADD Art Collector

artnet News's Andrew Goldstein spoke to the auction-house rainmaker about why no one wants to learn about art anymore.
Christie's Loïc Gouzer with the Jean-Michel Basquiat painting that sold to Yusaku Maezawa for $57 million in 2016. Photo: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images
When it comes to innovation in the field of art auctions, it’s true that the Christie’s rainmaker Loïc Gouzer is hardly alone. That august auction house, in fact, has an impressive track record of minting dynamos from Amy Cappellazzo (who left to found Art Agency Partners, now part of Sotheby’s) to Philippe Ségalot and Brett Gorvy, both of whom now sell art privately. But Gouzer certainly takes home the distinction, if one can call it that, of being the oddest fit among those ranks. An antsy character with a half-heartedly decorated office, he often gives the impression that he’d rather be doing something other than the workaday labor of powering the world’s number-one auction house—perhaps directing a movie, or playing soccer, or raising money to save the whales.
It so happens, with his record of bringing in eye-popping business, that Christie’s seems to encourage these flights of fancy—with the calculated bet that even a failure or a bout of spearfishing (like the episode that lead to his bloodied Instagram portrait) might lead, like the Prince of Serendip, to untold success. It’s nice work if you can get it, but some people already wonder how much longer the arrangement can last, including Gouzer himself. In the meantime, at least, he seems to be enjoying himself mightily.
For the second half of a two-part interview, artnet News’s Andrew Goldstein spoke to Gouzer about his renowned fondness for using Instagram as a selling tool, his feelings on China’s growing weight in the art market, and why collecting art makes you a better businessman.

We spoke earlier about how you’ve used unconventional means to shake up the age-old auction business. One tool you’ve used to great effect has been Instagram, where you post a mix of blue-chip artworks from your upcoming sales, wildlife-conservation statistics, and photos from your personal life. You’ve built an engaged audience of 21,100 followers—as of this week—that includes such famous “like”ers as Gisele Bundchen. You’ve also used it to engage in entertaining flame wars, such as when you posted a spoof of fake Wade Guyton laser-prints saying “Thank U” after that artist creatively objected to being included in your “If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday…” sale. How do you feel Instagram is best suited to move the art market along?
Instagram is an incredible tool because you have direct access to collectors. I would estimate that at least 80 percent of the collectors I deal with follow us on Instagram at Christie’s, so we can use it undercut the traditional press, which is a good thing. Sometimes I also use it as a calling card when I’m putting together an auction in order to attract works: “Hey, guys, I’m doing a sale—this is what I’m looking for.”

You and your former boss at Christie’s, Brett Gorvy, are two of the most adept users of Instagram in the art market. He has used his account to sell multimillion-dollar Basquiats and you’ve used it to build up anticipation for your sales. Who learned how to use it from whom?
I’ve actually sold a lot of works through Instagram too—I just don’t advertise it when I sell them, while Brett makes a point of letting everyone know that he sold work. Instagram definitely works for selling art. But to spend a moment on Brett, just because I want to mess with him, he’s a bit—to put it politely—neurotic, like we all are in the art world. I told him, “You should go on Instagram—it would be a good outlet for your neurosis.” But I didn’t know he’d be so crazy as to make a religion out of it. He posts a lot, to the point where it became impossible to even speak to him when we were working together, even though we were one office apart. One day, I had to put a post on my Instagram: “Brett, please call me.” He called me instantly.
That’s very funny.
At the same time, while I work for Christie’s, Instagram is my private realm, so it’s this gray zone that allows you to do certain things. I remember there was this ad that I wanted to do for “If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday…” when I put the two Koons basketballs that were in the sale into one image and said, “It takes Koons to collect contemporary art.” But although Koons approved it, management didn’t like it. So I said to hell with it and just posted it. It was great, because it was not approved by Christie’s, but it was approved by Loïc, and that’s all I need on Instagram.
Normally I’ve heard that if you do Instagram you should always be consistent and post about the same thing. In my case, I’m pretty schizophrenic—I jump from showing artworks to showing dead sharks and talking about conservation. And it works. Suddenly, when I sit down at board meetings of [the ocean conservation nonprofit] Oceana and look at who recently gave donations, I see random names that follow me on Instagram. I really like this cross-pollination between art collectors and the environment.
Gouzer’s instagram. Screengrab by Andrew Goldstein.
You said you’ve sold artworks through Instagram. Is it easy to attribute which artworks were sold because you posted them, or is it fuzzier than that?
I’ve actually sold quite a few artworks on Instagram, and I’ve also done some private sales for Instagram. A lot of times it’s clear because after I’ve posted something I get a phone call from someone saying, “Hey, I saw this on Instagram—I want to bid on it.” Now, the tricky thing is that there are a lot of collectors who sometimes contractually require that we post the work they’ve consigned on our Instagrams. I don’t want to do it, and I don’t really accept it. I want to be free, posting what I want. But more and more we have collectors requiring that, if they give their work, we have to post it on Instagram, or on WeChat. Most Chinese collectors live and breathe WeChat, and buy art they see on WeChat. I don’t use WeChat, but I really should.
Another mode of technology that you’ve been using to promote your sales in a novel way is viral videos. First there was the skateboarding video for “If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday….” that created a lot of buzz, and then you had the other recent video for Salvator Mundi that showed all these teary-eyed art pilgrims looking at the painting, apparently in the grips of Stendhal syndrome. What was the idea with that first video, with the skateboarder? It was certainly a change of pace for an auction house like Christie’s.
Traditionally, auction-house videos have been specialists talking in front of the art, so I thought we could do something different. The skateboarding was a bit of schtick, and a bit of adolescent fantasy. I have a lot of respect for art, but I also think things should not be taken too seriously, because that’s when you lose perspective. Christie’s is such an institution, and I’m not saying it’s a cult, but it’s good to sometimes desacralize the institution for a minute. I wanted to show the whole machinery behind the scenes, where it’s like an iceberg in that 10 percent is exposed and then 90 percent—the hard-working people—is submerged. I thought skateboarding through the back rooms would show people that it’s not the Wizard of Oz.Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to skateboard, so I had to hire someone.
It’s funny, I once wanted to do another video for “Looking Forward to the Past,” and I had this crazy idea that was so complicated I’m not even sure I completely understood it myself. I hired a movie director and I created a giant studio and had all the work floating in the air. We tried to do something that was impossible, and then failed. We could have done it, but it demanded such a huge amount of money for so many special effects that we decided to kill it. That’s my one big regret at Christie’s.
Since you began your auction career a decade ago, joining Sotheby’s in 2007, the audience for auctions has changed. Instead of being populated by the David Rockefellers of the world, now there’s a new generation of cool young collectors like the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa—who announced his purchase of the $110.5 million Basquiat via an Instagram post—who are completely plugged into the tech world and pop culture. How have you seen the makeup of the collectors you deal with shift over time?
Collectors have changed quite a lot in the 10 years I’ve been doing this job. When I started, you would sit down with a collector, they would ask questions, you would show them the work, you would show them the catalogue raisonné, you would explain how this work fits into the oeuvre—you’d have a whole discussion to help form a judgment. Now people’s attention spans have become far shorter, and not only in art but in every way. These days, people come in and you’ll say, “Here’s a Twombly painting—you should compare it to others in Twombly’s catalogue raisonné,” and they’ll say, “I just need to know if it’s an A or an A+ or B+.”
You have people who can literally pull the trigger on a $20 million or $30 million painting just by seeing an image on Instagram, and without asking further questions. It’s interesting, socially, but sometimes I get a bit depressed about it. It’s sad that maybe only eight percent of the collectors today actually enjoy discussing art and asking questions. In a way, as specialists, we have so much to give. We have learned so much over the years. But now a lot of people don’t really care. I guess it’s the way people make their decisions.
I think the whole way of collecting has changed, quite a lot. But I have a bit of nostalgia for those days, not so long ago, where every time you would sell a painting it was a whole conversation.
Another aspect of the art world that has changed tremendously is the growth of the importance of China, and Asia more generally. You’ve been involved with the Chinese art scene for longer than most people in the West. What first brought you to China, and where do you see the relationship between China and the Western art market evolving?
I remember being at school when I was 16 and hearing in geography class that China would be the next superpower. When I later started working at a small gallery called Analix Forever in Geneva, I had this idea that if China was becoming a superpower, there must be artists out there. I asked another dealer, Pierre Huber, for just one artist’s name and phone number, and I did a deal with Analix Forever that if they would finance part of my trip to China, I would come back and do a show of Chinese art in exchange.
So I went there knowing nothing, but I met all the guys that became famous, like Yue MinjunZhang XiaogangAi Weiwei. This was around 1999, and I was just 19 or 20, and it was incredible because no one cared. And those guys were pretty much semi-hiding, because what they were doing was barely tolerated. There were very, very few people collecting their work, so I basically used my bar mitzvah money to buy what I could.
Later, when I started at Sotheby’s, I think I was so annoying with the Chinese stuff that they said, “Just do it so we don’t have to hear about you anymore.” I put 10 Chinese works in a sale, and it went crazy—all the lots sold for something like five times the estimate. And that was perhaps day one of the Chinese contemporary art market.
China is definitely a huge player now. The speed at which they learn, their curiosity, and their eagerness to know about everything is incredible. Traditionally, you would say to the collector, “Start buying Renoir first, or Chagall,” and then it would take him 50 years to get to buying a Robert Ryman. The Chinese maybe buy a Renoir first as an entry point to the art market, and in six months they’re already buying their first Ryman or Bruce Nauman.
What you’re seeing is that art is becoming similar to a global currency, where people of different cultures have something in common. If you’re in Shenzhen and you buy an Andy Warhol, then suddenly you’re part of a giant international circuit of discussion.
I would say it’s like a rich man’s version of football [translation: soccer]. When I’d travel when I was young, I would always bring a football with me because in most countries we couldn’t communicate with people, but if you take a football along then suddenly there’s a whole match going on in the middle of the Mongolian steppe. In the same way, art has become an incredible communication tool in a world where everything seems to happen online, on WeChat or Instagram or Twitter. There, art is something as tangible as a football.
Gouzer’s 2016 “Bound to Fail” auction at Christie’s brought in $78 million. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.
Another sport I’ve always thought it resembles is golf, because golf is something that businessmen can do together or talk about when they aren’t doing business—which only allows them to do more business. So now the art fair has become the new golf course.
Yes. And it’s really a mind exercise, too—some people do Sudoku, some people do crosswords, and some people collect art. It’s really something that opens your mind. The other day I was having lunch with [Christie’s owner] François Pinault in New York and someone asked him how important it was for him to collect. He answered, “I think if I hadn’t started collecting, I would still be selling wood in Brittany.” It opened his mind to everything, because it forces you to keep the part of your brain that handles curiosity active. Collecting art is incredible mind gymnastics, basically, because it means always pushing yourself further. Which raises an interesting point: most collectors we deal with are incredible autodidacts. I know very few collectors who have actually been educated at Harvard or Yale—most of the time, art collectors are self-made men or women, school dropouts who created empires and were extremely successful. And the one common denominator is their curiosity. The know-it-all people usually don’t collect art, because they know it all.
One thing that’s so intellectually stimulating about art is that the field is constantly changing. In this past auction week, for instance, we saw tremendous records set for work by black artists, and recently women artists have really been coming to the fore in a new way. What do you make of these new developments within the market that suggest a possible shift away from the old, white, European, male artists to a different paradigm?
I think it’s very positive when people look at art for the art—for what it is, rather than who made it. I think right now there may be knee-jerk reaction to the way things were before that is going all the way over to the other end, and that we’re seeing this with the revival of interest in black artists. But I think all this is going to balance out. But while I believe we all are somehow subconsciously biased, I fundamentally believe that I’ve never looked at art through the prism of gender or race. I’m sure a lot of people have done it, most likely subconsciously. But I think it’s very healthy for people to look at art for what it is. For example, my favorite living artist is David Hammons. He could be whatever he wants to be—I don’t care. I think he’s the Brancusi of our time.
I also come from a very liberal, no-judgment background, with my mother being perhaps the first female lawyer who actually made it in Switzerland at a time when it was impossible for women to do anything. So I don’t think I have any bias in my DNA whatsoever. It’s something I have trouble even grasping.
David Hammons’s Throwing Up a Brick (1998) sold for $1.4 million in Gouzer’s “Bound to Fail” auction. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.
So, while artists rise and fall, and trends come in and out of fashion, the art market in general has had a heady upward trajectory ever since you started in this business, with barely a dip during the financial crisis and then pure hockey-stick growth. What would you say is your outlook for the art economy over the short term, and then over the longer term of the next 10 years?
People are always worrying that the art market must be a bubble. But actually that’s a misinterpretation. The art market has been strong, but it’s not booming. The reason why it always looks so strong—with huge prices and all that—is because auction houses tend to focus on the artists that are doing well at a specific time, because those are the works that transact. All the artists that are not performing well? These are the ones that we don’t talk about. So, number one, I think the art market is pretty healthy. But it’s not a bubble.
What is not very healthy, however, is the fact that—as is the case everywhere—the power of brands is becoming overwhelming. So people buy from galleries and auction houses as if they were Hermès or Gucci or Tom Ford. I think there are a lot of great artists who are not in the limelight, and a lot of smaller galleries that struggle to sell some very good artists. So the auction house has a responsibility to not just focus on the same 200 artists but to try to experiment and bring a lot of unsung heroes to the market.
But as for collecting, it’s almost a genetic, subconscious urge, and it’s not going to go away—it’s only spreading. Every season we have a new influx of collectors from Asia, from Silicon Valley. I see a lot of growth there, because there’s still only a fraction of the people who can afford to who buy art. Just imagine, I think Leo Castelli’s entire mailing list was 150 or 200 people, and they were a major gallery. Now galleries have mailing lists of tens of thousands of people.
So even if there are downturns—which there will be—the growing pool of collectors is going to keep the market going strong. I went through the market crisis, but it was interesting that while people stopped buying for a while after Lehman Brothers [collapsed], it was almost like those mushrooms that don’t pop up some seasons but still continue to grow underground. When the crisis was over, all those mushrooms—all those new clients—came out from everywhere.
You spoke about wanting to promote the “unsung heroes” of the art world. Would you ever want to go into the gallery business, like Brett Gorvy, and work directly with artists?
I always have trouble thinking more than six months ahead. I love art, but if I look at the long term I feel that we all have a responsibility to protect our planet. I just have a very hard time going to work and selling art while I know what’s going on in the oceans and the forests. I know that we are going to be the generation that will be pointed at by our children, saying, “Why did you not do anything?” I don’t want to go too far, but my parents’ generation was pointing at their elders, saying, “Why did you not do anything when the Holocaust was happening—you were complicit, because no one did anything.” I think we’re going to receive the same judgment from our kids. So I don’t want to be the guy whose reply is, “Yes, I knew that it was going on, but I didn’t realize how bad it was.” I want to be the guy who says, “Look, I did everything I had in my power to stop the ecocide of the planet.” So I don’t know when, but I know that down the line I want to focus much more on that. Art won’t be as interesting once the museums are submerged underwater.

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