Stefan Simchowitz on his radical plans for decentralizing the art market
United States


00:00:02Hi this is nicholas forest time here in the beautiful black it is what we would call it a suburb or a village or a region it's a village a little village no literally mountains in north of sydney and i'm here with stiffens into that in the living room
00:00:26in the living room with a beautiful view incredible overlooking the bag mr yep overlooking the value absolutely glorious mega long which is mega long love that work you could definitely frame this on dh sitting look at it for a long time yeah beautiful clowns yeah so you've had
00:00:46this and you've had this house for for years right now very peaceful where i come to think where you come to think so to get away from your hectic life in in l a would you call that a hectic life or try to avoid having a hectic life
00:01:03it's hectic it's unavoidably hectic tryto walk all the time too to take the hectic miss out but here i can walk and it's just the bush and no gods and little critters everywhere just somehow detached from the world but you are able to still continue what you do
00:01:26you still continue your tio you're connected but you're you're very distant so you're connected but you're very far away from everything and gives the sort of a sense of peace sense of you know separation that lets you see things with some clarity clarity is is one of the
00:01:50principles that teller calvino Six memos One of my favorite ones Because it's it's A very difficult thing to maintain Clear observation of how things actually work in function I think it's very important for me And what i do have some sense of clarity to sort of see through
00:02:11the noise to hear through the noise and to take action through the noise Increasingly hard thing to do Today yes i mean the fact that you're able to actually still function in your business pursuits while you're at it out here in kind of a remote area is i
00:02:36suppose something that a lot of a lot of dealers wouldn't a lot of people in the outworld who involved with the own dealing out would not be able to do but you've got a pretty unique perspective and a pretty unique model of of dealing of interacting with artists
00:02:53of your relationship with him so how does that work and how does you know how does that enable you to then be sort of detached from i suppose commercialism i think for me business is well has become a sort of a conceptual practice so i think the basics
00:03:12of business and the basics of economics fundamentally social science sort of basic conditions and laws of good business an effective business and i think you sort of learn them and then they become second nature and then you evolved them on you sir question especially in the art business
00:03:34which which has a sort of a very specific code of doing business that isn't necessarily attached to business but it's sort of a code that the arc business adopts were itself disposal businesses have that and for me it sort of become a consensual conceptual practice and questioning which
00:03:55of those codes is effective in which is ineffective which is which is positive and which is negative on dh it's very important for me too conceptualized the relationship between cultural production which is a fancy word for artists who make art and cultural distribution which is a fancy word
00:04:17for you how do you sell autumn who buys it how does it get out there to be seen but i'm very interested in the narrative on dh thie progression of this relationship between cultural production and cultural distribution and the steps in between financing cultural production financing cultural distribution
00:04:42and really trying to come up with a framework and a model that is but profitable for myself for our business and for the artists who we work with and it requires a lot of tweaking because there are a lot of forces at play with competitive um in both
00:05:06competitive in the competitive business environment but also competitive in the sense that some of the practices that that we have established are not are not necessarily accepted widely or broadly by the art industry yeah and and you know some people find it weird you know i mean we
00:05:27all focus is primarily on financing the artist it really begins in the studio it begins and making sure that the factory of the artist has enough working capital to sustain itself over a long period of time and has enough working capital to realize the visions and goals of
00:05:47the artists who run there are factories as opposed to focusing on the on the storefront which is the gallery of the exhibition space We feel if if the product can be right the art can be right The artist can be in a position where they they can produce
00:06:09who at their at their optimum creative capacity Then you've really won the game there and then and distribution really becomes it's sort of an automatic process from that sort of Once you have the product right you know essentially the custom of finds you So i suppose it's essentially
00:06:29a form of well democratizing yeah well in a sort of democracy is a democratization and democracy very tricky world words When you when you deal with the art industry because art is expensive for the majority of people So the idea that democratisation is a a good moral impulse
00:06:58is not necessarily Yeah is not necessarily factual because if you really broadly speaking think about the democratization of our sort of impossible it really is something that for the most part is something enjoyed by practice by consumed by elites when you when you look into a global perspective
00:07:24you look a large populations but i think that those elite populations have become homogenized and extremely underserved on dh have aggregated their responsibility as elites to lead and set agendas and ideas that i mean i i'm and i wouldn't have a student off philosophy but i have a
00:07:49great interest in philosophy on the ancient greeks basically believe that a man of leisure would spend his times in study so leisure time was associated with with being studios with learning with thinking with coming up with ideas not today how we think of leisure time way have leisure
00:08:13time waken goto barley or or some fancy resort in the snorkeling leisure time for the ancient greeks was was something that freed man up for study for thought for thinking and the elites unfortunately have have have sort of today they're their utility of leisure time is essentially no
00:08:38longer practice for the most part of thinking but it's a practice of you know snorkeling scuba diving partying drinking and relaxing on i think i think those people are fortunate enough to be prosperous should really take that time too to think to study to read too to rebuild
00:09:03the scaffold for a world in which way actually need i need to sort of be thoughtful Andi think things through and taking the information but analyze it Question Where it's coming from Question its authenticity authenticity Its authority somehow separate the noise from from what's really going on And
00:09:26this is becoming increasingly hard to do as as sort of social media buy if a cates us into into extreme camps of off thinking and speaking and actions So i suppose what so would you say that what you're doing is more about destabilising in diluting the power structure
00:09:48structures and hierarchies that currently dictate the trajectory of the art world and making it I think i think the structures are very important I think the structures are like permits in ancient greece but around the permits on under the permits if you excavate the land there are area's
00:10:16undiscovered that link the permits together secret tunnels and and other artifacts that have been buried by time i think we have to excavate the environment so that we don't destroy the power structures because in destruction you you debase yourself off the authority moral authority and also practical requirements
00:10:44to maintain hard built on hard one established enterprises that are legitimate and supporting culture but you really want to excavate new ones uh encouraging you wants to be built and then figure out how to integrate them with the existing hierarchies and somehow figure out a way to build
00:11:07bridges with many of the existing hierarchies and and thinking and you do that to issue the challenge them or you would you reach your hand out to them You see if they'll collaborate you try to educate them as to what you're doing you tried to reach out it's
00:11:21difficult because there's a lot of reticence and friction but i think it's it's too respect everything that's been built and to utilize efficiently the infrastructure that's been built it's it's not about demolishing or about you devaluing or it's it's it's about integrating systems with new systems so you
00:11:49can maximize the potential off off off what needs to be done and we were sort of living in an age where culture is under attack from all sides and the preservation of culture is critical to i think the success of of oh off of a lot of our
00:12:13of humanitarian civilization basically so in an ideal outworld if if you were to achieve all your objectives and say all your wishes for the outworld come true what would it look like how would the mechanics and structures look and how would that differ from what it is today
00:12:34i think would look much i would think it would look very much like this like the slow food movement in europe where you have a lot off off producers off off off good food good quality food you know organic greens small producers integrated and distribution systems that that
00:12:56are sort of marketed to broad audiences so people can have a lot more individual unique experiences that are very high quality as opposed to the same experience that is homogenized and high quality so you know so i think you can make an analogy of eating spaghetti with tomato
00:13:14sauce and you can go from a land to turn to pienza to be a chance to naples teo you know all over italy and you can have a very simple dish of spaghetti with tomato sauce and you can have an experience that is sublime and uniquely vastly different
00:13:33with two ingredients three ingredients if you add cheese you know on top you know whether you put pecorino pommy rujano in the pasta and that diversity of experience which is unified by a consistent quality across regions i think if we could bring that to the art world that
00:13:53would be very interesting as opposed to everyone's eating the same very good spaghetti with tomato sauce and it's the same one all of the world i would could be a well that really encourages and enables many more people to collect and engage with art because they wouldn't feel
00:14:13alienated if they weren't able to have access to the same spaghetti essentially to use a pretty simplified analogy yeah definitely that sound that certainly makes sense i think so my getty tomato source analogy it's a good one i like it never came up with sounds good to me
00:14:32so in part it's about the economics of scale do you think that's part of its about the economics of scaling individual experiences so so i think i think in the restaurant in the food business if you look a farm to table which is this idea of fresh produce
00:14:49brought to the table at once you know originally began as quite a small movement but farm to table has actually scaled into into a very large and enterprising mechanism of of distributing a restaurant experience of food experience on dh they did it by creating a unified umbrella for
00:15:09a set of underlying principles which were fresh food organic farmers locally grown brought to you fresh to the table so i think i think you can do it by bye conceiving a sort of press but you have to really open things up for that You you have to
00:15:28open up the institutions who really seemed to do the same shows at the same time you know you have a successful show end of a young artist sort of They're hot for a few years on every museums lined up to do that show like that from the same
00:15:43set of instead of galilee So we have to we have to encourage institutions on calories and gary's itt's necklaces Next yeah you have to give to encourage institutions to take more risk basically to accept failure to accept the fact that they don't have to just show what is
00:16:08it going to be historically important Um if they do show things that that are not going to be historically important that not every institution institution alongside them fails in showing the wrong artists it's a lot more experimentation a lot more small shows a lot more speed essentially i
00:16:30think should happen Yeah okay it definitely makes sense Now you're the model that you a favor in terms of dealing without us two on Also dealing with collectors is one that's very it's very much based on moles ethics on respect and on trust is well so why do
00:17:03you think more people don't the grey with your method of working where anything more people don't what if people don't like it There seems to be seems to be some sort of i think people don't like things they don't understand they don't like things that don't feel comfortable
00:17:19It's I don't have a single contract with an artist i work with it and i don't i don't want them I believe that things should be should work until they work I think people are very distrustful of things that they haven't seen before like what is that I
00:17:38haven't seen that before That's a strange thing Do you think you somewhere They perhaps feel themselves threatened By the success that you're experiencing such a benefit successes and threatened by success i don't think they're threatened on the early I don't even know if i'm that successful To be
00:18:02honest with you i yeah i just think that threatened of experiencing something that they haven't seen before that they're not used to it's the you know it's the same threat when you come here and you see a giant harmless harry spider called huntsman and and you see it
00:18:28and you fear it because it's the biggest harry and ugly but it's not dangerous at all it's it's one of the friendliest spiders in the world and it doesn't bite people it's not poisonous it's Just you don't know what it is So you your reaction is i'm scared
00:18:44I don't think it's i don't even think it's like an envy off or or you know people have this of illusion of success Larry gagosian successful david's weren't successful You know i'm a guy just building a business supporting young artists you know which is very difficult very challenging
00:19:07It's not that it's really not like that big a deal it's i think i i think again it's like a cliche to say that envious of success i think there are a lot more successful people in the world there certainly are i think it's just more fear of
00:19:24not understanding how it works oftentimes people say how does it work with you and i'm like very simply like we don't understand i'm like you know because they have been taught these cliches of how the art business works that are really cliches and they were so unable to
00:19:42sort of analyze the business economics off why those cliches are cliches very traditional structure of distribution the postwar world gallery takes your work on consignment if they sell that they give you fifty percent if they don't sell if they were turned the goods to you on dh that's
00:20:01it and if they sell it well and they do another show that they sell it really well they take you to not tre and they sell really well they try take youto every are tra and if they sell it really really well they publish a book and taking
00:20:15a more artifice and if they don't sell it at all they drop you as an office and they don't wait foot foot for you to make art you know some don't drop yours and ours that's untrue but today more so than ever if you don't so you get
00:20:30dropped as an artist because the expenses of art fairs and galleries are so expensive in the fifties and sixties i think it was the seventies There was much different you could costs Were lois a lot of galleries great galleries You know i spent a lot of time representing
00:20:45honest They never sold work for over long periods of time but i think now it's very different than market The cost is too expensive too competitive So you need to come with some kind of solution for how do you support artists in this particular moment of time where
00:21:06things are so sped up So what do you think is the primary reasons that the art world is not willing to adapt to the model that you trying to initiating Institute What's that Well i think it is willing to adapt And i think in certain parts it has
00:21:28adapted i think it's it's reticent This i think i think i wouldn't say e think it's adapting slowly I think it has to adapt slowly I think the unwillingness to adapt is because it questions the basic core principles of what it is to run a a gallery and
00:21:52represent artists in many degrees challenges challenges many of those cool conditions on dh that's always difficult to do but i do think it is changing and i do think it'll come opinion to change but it'll change because there's pressure on their stress particularly on the small gallery system
00:22:12of them on the midsize gallery system it's not going to change because they're dying to change like like all systems unfortunately they tend to they don't tend to bend and change form they tend to break and then get rebuilt but you know it's it's always been an evolution
00:22:35and i will continue to be so so where do you see the outworld heading in the next a few years with your predictions about trajectory and what you think is going to change wait up to trump i think more participants in the art world i think people are
00:22:56very interested in i actually strange you think the idea of crypto currencies is very good for art because i think autism is in a way a cryptocurrency has each artist is a set of operating principles and guidelines like like a white paper that gives you confidence to either
00:23:15by the work or not and i think it is as people broadly get used to conceptual mechanism off buying a currency that is based on a conceptual idea I think I think actually cryptocurrencies helped the art market a lot So i see a huge expansion in the interest
00:23:35in collecting art in investing in art and speculating and art in and in using onto the decorative object Some very optimistic I'm just very interested in helping to decentralize some of the aspects of of this as its scales And when i say decentralize it i mean decentralize it's
00:24:02it's it's singular It's Singular a singularity in being distributed within a very specific system And i'm interested in sort of helping establish more distributed architecture off development production and distribution for for art Yeah that's Just finally if they were anything that you could correct about what's being written
00:24:40that you and if the myths that have been spreader and why the internet of which they're being probably quite a few hours old too many suggest what were the ones what what would you correct one of the things is this is this something i mean the term flipper
00:24:56drives me absolutely crazy because like i watched as the market went wild and i watched all of these good collectors i know selling their works at auction and and you can ask the heads of any of the auction houses if i consign work to auction for sale i
00:25:16have over the course of years you sold a handful but i am not an active participant in selling works at auction i'm an active participant in buying works at auction and this word like the word flipper just drives me crazy i'm an art dealer my job is to
00:25:35sell art like every gallerist or a dealer in the world and i've watched us like negative label off me speculating on flipping art some sort of satanic vice that i have that sort of rushers of core values of the artist i manage and work with them and and
00:25:58collect and i think it's just atrociously incorrect and and going through a media cycle which sort of has described me in these ways is really like reading fiction it's eh You know it's like it's sort of us the individual is a person who does something then reading about
00:26:19yourself in these mainstream magazines like the economist of the new york times and you're like i mean i'm happy for the press it's good for my brand and distributes my identity but but i'm thinking this has got nothing to do with who i am my core belief system
00:26:36or what i do and and i think in time it will be corrected i think those who know me and those who have done business with me and those who are close to me are equally mystified but the strange thing is i'm also grateful for for sort of
00:26:53the negative press because it's it's been the sort of the carrier pigeon for enabling me to get some of my my sort of yeah more more radical ideas out there into the system and to from up myself so the the sort of acceptance of sort of negative identity
00:27:16is ironically something i'm equally grateful for because at least it's it's press it's not pr someone said once there's no such thing as good press that's public relations so one thing i'm grateful for us i'm not in the public relations business i don't have a publicist but you
00:27:39know these kinds of conversations with people actually willing to sit down for thirty minutes and listen to me talk drivel i think they can hopefully make their own minds up about what i do and how i do it Why do it and maybe seeing what i do things
00:27:54that they do themselves too you know i'm not trying to own this model it's i talk about it i'm transparent about it i'm happy if other people do it it's really like a piece of i p that i want to put out into the world for people to
00:28:11to manifest and coffee themselves because i think if we can do it it'll be better for everything it's not like in the slow food movement the organic farmer in oregon says hey you can grow these tomatoes in tuscany it's the ideas to share the the ideas share the
00:28:28pitfalls share the resource is so we can we can all benefit you know my favorite economist called pola talks about the four quadrants of stupidity and he says that you know stupid people make stupid decisions for themselves and those around them when they're uneconomic single but intelligent people
00:28:47make decisions that are good for them and everyone around them and i think yeah mikey driver is let's let's live in a world we're making where we are all making intelligent decisions in other words helping each other while helping ourselves like that's that would be one of my
00:29:05my key things don't call me a flipper basically drives me crazy that's sze very true that i think the outward ese perhaps a little scared of change i mean the traditions have been there since really since you know for islam is these bane and upmarket a novel Traditions
00:29:25really haven't changed haven't really evolved that much or at least in keeping with the time we were all scared of change I mean you know you know it's interesting i like is she as well but from like the eighteen fifties to the to the to the beginning of
00:29:41the twentieth century we saw huge technological advance of the industrial revolution board around huge advances and machinery and technology and military technology that were built up during a multi decade period of time And then when one came along those machines that technology had never been used before when
00:30:04world one was unleashed that technology was unleashed for man against man its destructive power was was was was crazy So i think that you know we have to we have to sort of learn how to use this technology this the sort of new technology in a more responsible
00:30:28way on each other with each other and there's been a certain lack of responsibility that and it's not a governmental it's an individual responsibility and how we use thes very powerful tools in in this new world and we really need to come up with with tyrone individual practices
00:30:50off how we of how we use thes new forms of power that we have at our fingertips yeah absolutely Okay well stephan it's been an absolute pleasure Thank you so much for your time and i can't imagine that sitting era building this beautiful view that you'd be wanting
00:31:08to head back to l a to in too much of ah hurry pretty nice here but i suppose you miss i don't miss anything I love it yet and i love her like i love the whole thing but yeah welcome to black keys and if you wantto keep
00:31:26up today with the stiffen you can fully money instagram and facebook and if you're in the er blue mountains area head into his bakery a swell black cock a tune and you'll find the best bread around Lawson in listen and for twenty two hundred flesh in twenty two
00:31:46hundred there you go So this is ahh nicholas forest and uh been listening to a discussion with stiffened into it Podcasts you just heard was recorded with anchor if you want to make your own della the android or ios app completely free from anchor dot fm slash podcast
00:32:12That's anchor dot fm slash podcast

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