Cultured Magazine

June/July 2015

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CULTURED 181 If they bring in some works that are less successful in the market but have critical success, their collection as a whole can become more valuable and they would create a market. Certain people have the buying power to make that happen. How do you keep your clients happy? We feed them everything—news, images and shows that are coming up and how far out they are. We take care of their archives and installations. We fly all over the world to photograph every art show, so that they can see what's happening anywhere. Where do you get fulfillment in your work? I feel like advising is just my way to buy things that I wish I could buy myself. [Laughs.] Really, I think what's meaningful for me is we take a lot of people through who have no experience at all. When you see them walking into a gallery for the first time they have no idea how to see through the mayhem. We really try to educate them, we try to understand them. What is their aesthetic inclination? How can we step into their shoes? We don't just handle sales. Would you ever want to curate a show again? It wasn't easy! And I'm not going to suggest I might be doing it often. It was like an itch I needed to scratch. It was very meaningful to me, and I think it's incredibly important. How so? I started reading the writing of this economic theorist named Jeremy Rifkin, who I found very compelling, in particular his positing we are in the beginning of a third Industrial Revolution, which I think is undeniable. I found this as a very interesting way to frame artists working from 1990 to the present, approximately when this industrial revolution kind of started. Basically, industrial revolutions have happened when advances in communication and energy collide—so the printing press and steam, oil and telecommunications and now the exhaustion of fossils fuels and the advent of renewable energy and the Internet. Those things happening at the same time are creating a massive shift in our society. So how does that affect art? I was looking at all these young artists who keep getting dubbed as post-Internet artists and put into these shows mostly in Europe and Asia, and shows about the Internet, and I found it fetishizing and not very historical. I wanted to take a position where we could kind of look back to painters and sculptors working in 1990—before the expansion of the Internet—who were already reflecting the changes, such as Albert Oehlen and Christopher Wool, that are being reflected in younger artists. How does your non-profit operate? Visionary Initiatives in Art is basically a philanthropic fund. There are 50 people who contribute, and that number is growing. Sort of like a giving circle? Yes, kind of. Our core values are thought leadership, artistic production and public engagement, and we pool our money together and we vote twice a year and on how to distribute the funds. In two years, we've given away $1 million dollars to Doug Aitken's Station to Station project, Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz, Bob Irwin at Chinati and Josephine Pryde at CCA Wattis. How do you calibrate things when it comes to injecting your own personal taste into what you buy? It's something I battle with myself every day because I can be more cerebral at times because I trained as an academic. I can get really into work that is dry and conceptual, and I can be looking at my client like, 'How could you not want this amazing, historically relevant, genius work?' And they want to see paintings on a canvas. So I have to stop myself sometimes. The thing is, I can be very persuasive. I have persuaded painting collectors to buy video. But I don't think that's always a great idea. You have to say, "OK, this is not about me." Do you ever think you'll see video art sell at the Phillips evening sales? Not yet. It may never happen. It took photography years to make a market. I hope to see the day when a Tino Sehgal sells for $1 million dollars at auction. That would be amazing. Persuasion COURTESY OF SCHIFF FINE ART

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