The Art World’s Patron Satan

Christopher Glazek in the New York Times Magazine:

ScreenHunter_918 Jan. 04 22.40Since 2007, [Stefan] Simchowitz has sponsored and promoted roughly two dozen young artists. In addition to arranging sales for their work, Simchowitz often provides them with a studio, purchases their materials, covers their rent and subsidizes their living expenses. Perhaps most consequentially, he also posts photos of them and their work on his influential Instagram account, thereby creating what he calls “heat” and “velocity” for the artists he supports, who have included market darlings like the Colombian Oscar Murillo, the Japanese-American Parker Ito and the Brazilian Christian Rosa, all under the age of 35. But Simchowitz’s methods call down the opprobrium of art-world stalwarts, who are contemptuous of his taste, suspicious of his motives and fearful of his network’s potential to subvert the intricate hierarchies that have regulated art for centuries.

Reputations in the art world are forged over many years across countless fairs, openings, reviews and dinners. Although laypeople may look at a $30 million Richter and compare it to splatters from a second grader, Richter’s prices are determined not by chance but by the elaborate academic, journalistic and institutional infrastructure the art world has built to mete out prizes and anoint the next generation of cultural torchbearers. The collector class has traditionally come from the very top of the wealth spectrum and has included people looking to trade money for social prestige by participating in the art world’s stately rituals. Over the last few years, though, a new class of speculators has emerged with crasser objectives: They are less interested in flying to Basel to attend a dinner than in riding the economic wave that has caused the market for emerging contemporary art to surge in the past decade.

More here.

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