I recently came across an excellent article on Artspace.com highlighting keen insights from whom I believe to be one of the art world’s most polarizing figures - Stefan Simchowitz. In the piece, Mr. Simchowitz gives, in my opinion, a well-rounded and very candid ‘state-of-the-day’ analysis of the current art market landscape.
As a an avid collector, art advisor, and self-proclaimed “cultural entrepreneur,” Mr.Simchowitz offers sagacious advice on understanding and navigating the art market with consideration to present day realities such as the proliferation of art through social media, and institutional ‘group think.’
He lends his advice to a range of diverse ‘actors’ in the art world - from galleries trying to get a foothold in a post-internet art era, to young tech mavericks - displeased with the ‘trappings’ of the traditional art system - but eager to move from spectator to buyer.
Overall, if you participate in the art world - whether you’re an artist, art advisor, art dealer, gallerist, collector (budding or established), or spectator - I think you’ll benefit from reading this article, or, at the very least, relate to something in it.
Below are excerpts of what I believe to be some of the more salient points from the piece. But feel free to read it in its entirety for a more personal angle.
The Impact of The Internet on The Art World
”[…] there’s much less friction for the spectator to experience the artwork. More people see the art, more people can consume it and engage with it, and, more importantly, many more people have started taking and sharing photos and describing what they’re seeing. These posts aren’t in a descriptive format like a critical review, but they’re microbursts of cultural criticism that can balloon to be seen by a multitude of people.
So one artwork can be encountered by 20 people, but if they capture an image of it and distribute it then the viewership can become exponentially larger. In this way, the curator, the critic, and the context become fragmented, and we go from a hierarchical system that’s controlled from the top to a system that’s more like a beehive, where many people performing very simple actions can be aware of each other and create an organism that is actually extremely intelligent and able to achieve huge results. This is changing the way culture is distributed and marketed and thought about, which I think is pretty radical.”
Using Social Media: A Tactical Example
”[…] it’s not so much about speaking to a mass of 10,000 people, but rather being followed by key decision-makers, players, and collectors in that network. […] what I call ‘curated social media,’ […] essentially a very inexpensive way to have an editorial platform that people can follow. Instagram has been an extension of that, and I use it less to directly market artists than to create some kind of narrative around their work.”
Choosing Clients As an Art Advisor
"I think you need a very widely distributed clientele, with everyone from the very rich to people who need to stretch to buy an artwork. You want to mix it up, like a school—you want diversity, as opposed to the traditional system, which is just looking for the super rich and famous clients. Advisors like that end up becoming inbred in their distribution. I think if you create diversity then you’re able to create a much healthier and more profound mechanism for cultural distribution."
Choosing Art: Ideas on What to Look For
"I look to identify a movement, and I look to identify macro-trends. What is going on in the world? How is the world changing? What are the power shifts at play? The world is constantly in flux and constantly in a period of hierarchy-restructuring. The key is to understand what exogenous factors enter a marketplace and will change it."
The Post-Internet Artist
”[…] I think their distribution and their cultural profiles are much broader and exist outside of the traditional networks of distribution and control as they are centered in New York and London. […] these young guys who are well known but who aren’t coming through the [traditional] system […]”
'Flipping” in the Art Market
"I believe in the trading infrastructure of the market, and I believe in inexpensive channels for art that allow it to get redistributed and redistributed and redistributed with great virality. If I sell you something for a dollar and you sell it to your mate for two dollars and he sells it to his mate for four dollars, and he sells it to his mate for eight dollars, and he sells it to his mate for 10—well, that’s five collectors who bought the work, discussed the work, studied the work, and made a profit from it. And then they feel good about investing in cultural production, which is a very difficult thing to do because art, at the end of the day, has no value.
So, the more confidence you can bring to the system, the better it is for the system.”
posted by Kwasi Gyasi of MyUberLife