“What did you feel when The New York Times called him “the Satan of the art world”?
It is the first question in the dialogue. Words pop out like wood chips chipped away by a careless carpenter. Stefan Simchowitz (South Africa, 1970) wears a gray hooded sweatshirt. Like one of those twenty-somethings who dream of millions in the tech valley of San Francisco.
“I felt betrayed and used by the newspaper.” They used me to tell something they wanted to say about the art market, ”he answers.
“And when Pulitzer Prize Winner Jerry Saltz calls him ‘Sith Lord’, comparing him to the villain of Star Wars? Or when The Economist talk about the “Donald Trump of art”?
“I’m a victim of the media.” I don’t believe in a conspiracy against me, journalists are underpaid and chase clicks. I am liberal and progressive – defends.
Nobody in the art world looks like Stefan Simchowitz. Photographer, collector, dealer, gallery owner, consultant, curator … and speculator for some. “I am a polemicist,” he admits. An insurgent who wants to put art on the scaffold or lead it to redemption.
Based in Los Angeles, he has produced films such as Requiem for a Dream o The House of Yes. Money? Selling his photography archive (MediaVast) to Getty Images in 2007 painted his account in Klein blue. Chase a riot in the art business. “The establishment he doesn’t love me because I’m a threat. My ideas are new and radical ”, he deepens.
A decade ago I already bought and sold online and acquired works directly from artists. As in the nineteenth century. His strategy is to mix Montparnasse – when it had all the iridescence of the beginning of the avant-gardes – and technology. He sells through his platform (Simco’s Club) and social networks (he has 90,000 followers on Instagram). It’s a connoisseur nineteenth century inhabiting the body of a digital entrepreneur. I could go to Yale University and sign the best of each class. He could… but it would be betraying himself. “I take an astronomical level of risk. I spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to support [paga los materiales o el estudio] to creators who will not give me any benefit for years ”, he foresees. “I am a romantic, and I want to build an empire.” Various media reported that he chopped an Ibrahim Mahama installation into 300 “individual” paintings to better sell them. Simchowitz responds: “Crap.” It has struck a deal with ICM – one of Hollywood’s largest talent agencies – and installed works by 400 artists in its offices. Ellen DeGeneres, Usher or Katie Holmes have been there.
“Does it seem important to you?” Asks the gallery owner.
“Well, I have another 100 projects like that,” he launches.
He has opened a traditional gallery on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. Over the next six months, it will open four more in Pasadena (California). In his arrhythmia of art he has the significance of Bob Dylan when he went from acoustic to electric. “Last year was the best in history for galleries, they made a fortune, that’s why I have opened too,” he emphasizes. But without you yes, you no. “I sell to all,” he clarifies.
Simchowitz loves art and artists. Remember the verse by Edmond Jabès: “You exist because I wait for you.”
“See you later,” he says goodbye in Spanish. It’s eleven o’clock in the morning and a heap of wood chips falls in Los Angeles.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.