The Future of Everything covers the innovation and technology that is transforming the way we live, work and play, with monthly issues on education, money, cities and more. This month is a digital entertainment and culture edition, online from October 1.
Memes are the new art critic, and no one muddles the machinery of the art market like Hilde Lynn Helphenstein, an artist-turned-phenomenon best known by her popular online alter ego, Jerry gogosian.
Over the past four years, Ms. Helphenstein, 36, based in West Hollywood, California, and Brooklyn, New York, has racked up critical influence and nearly 100,000 Instagram followers. His iconic memes, images and ideas that quickly spread online, hark back to the social and financial peculiarities of the art world.
During the pandemic, she posted an apocalyptic image of a city on fire, captioned “The world right now,” alongside a snapshot of a Will Ferrell shouting captioned “Art dealers: someone. wants to buy a painting? In another, she posted an image of a model’s leg stuck through a cat flap next to the punchline caption: “Me trying to be quietly invited into the VIP.”
“When I started exploring the economic structures of the art world, I understood that this was a party I wasn’t going to be invited to,” she says, even though she was a graduate of an art school that once ran an eponymous store. gallery in Los Angeles. (The wobbly bar for entering the first-rate art circuit may seem high.) She chose to “find the back door to enter” the upper echelons of the art world, she says, and the character by Jerry Gogosian – a friendly tribute to famous critic Jerry Saltz and art dealer Larry Gagosian became his insider and outsider outlet.
For a new generation of millennials looking to navigate this opaque marketplace, Helphenstein now serves as an ironic guide whose quick shots are as influential as any academic critic, possibly more. In addition to social media, she is filming a TV docu-series that will follow her as she moves through the art world, and she is also developing a black comedy about the New York art world, which are both in their early stages. Then there is her plan to launch a line of ironic products to help people “make their place in the hierarchy of the art world more obvious and ostentatious,” she says.
The Future of Everything recently spoke to Ms Helphenstein as she strolled through the maze of gallery stands during a preview of the great Swiss fair Art Basel to find out where she thinks art – and the art market ‘art – head. Below, an edited excerpt.
Where will people look next to find the next great artist?
I think social media will continue to be the driving force behind how people discover artists. Instead of a curator doing tons of research and developing a pitch as to why an artist might be relevant to the contemporary zeitgeist, we have cold, harsh analyzes that make people look into the app where they are. make value judgments based on the artist’s online personality, how many followers they have, what the artist looks like, who their mutual friends are, etc.
How could artists challenge the functioning of the art market?
The art market is the largest unregulated market in the world with billions of dollars traded with tax loopholes and massive tax shelters. The artist will likely only see the reward of a sale once, while merchants and their customers can inflate their market and create prices in the secondary market. I hope that artists will start to use their power to shape the market. At the end of the day, they have the offer, so they should start charging things like the resale rights.
Many people see NFTs – or non-fungible tokens, which serve as encoded vouchers of authenticity that are stored on the digital ledger known as the blockchain – as a way to give artists more influence. What’s the next step for NFT art?
I think we will see a stabilization of the craze. NFTs have their place in the contemporary art market, but for now it’s a complicated marriage of ideas. The three-dimensional art will eventually be uploaded to the blockchain so that artists can start receiving resale royalties when their works are returned to auction or resold privately.
In the future, most artists will never even pick up a brush in real life.
What do you think will happen next with the galleries?
Small galleries that do the hard work of cultivating careers always see the fruits of their labor go elsewhere. Artists are poached and collectors reap the financial benefits of reselling these artists at auction. Solutions? Some emerging and middleman galleries are starting to merge to create competing galleries, such as dealers Barbara Gladstone and Gavin Brown.
What can collectors in the art world, post-Covid expect?
The process of buying artwork has been gamified in an extremely addictive way. I was listening to a podcast called “Reply All” and they were talking about how everything has become a game. There are even games on your phone to figure out what household cleaning products you need. Collecting becomes a game too, because when you like artists in a gallery on social media, you are essentially picking a side and aligning with that gallery’s schedule. The gallery will see your support and suddenly you’re more likely to be invited to a vernissage, but that doesn’t mean they are going to make something available for you to purchase.
So what happens when you see photos from this gallery hosting a private dinner for an artist you follow and you weren’t invited? Social media is becoming this game because you want to be a part of this gallery’s philosophy. And we’re not just talking about the top galleries, this audition process is taking place in the small emerging galleries as well. You are desperate to buy, and that’s when dealers can sell you other artists’ inventory that they can’t sell. And then you play the game. For gamers, the potential of private dinners, artist friendships, exclusive parties, celebrity dating here and there are all hanging like carrots.
The buying process has also been simplified online, which means more people can buy faster.
Will Asian collectors continue to dominate the art market?
The Asian market is still on fire, but I think Seoul is about to take a dominant position as a big city of art.
In terms of taste, I believe the West will continue to be a dominant influence for buyers in any Asian high-end luxury market. I have friends who work in wine in China as well as in fashion. They can’t sell it fast enough and they have customers who are very eager to understand the lifestyle that comes with these products. I see no end in sight. As Marcel Duchamp once said, “Collecting art is the most addictive drug”. Asian collectors are here to stay.
Write to Kelly Crow at [email protected]
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