Let’s say that you are entirely new to the art world - doesn’t matter if you’re an aspiring artist, gallerist, journalist, and even dealer - but you are very familiar with the meme culture because, well, you’re an internet user. You have your little dream of entering this vast, ruthless jungle but you’re not sure how, because no one ever responded from those two ads you found and sent your application to.
Instead of trying to find a tips-filled article online or, god-forbid, an actual book that might help you in your quest, I strongly suggest you consult an Instagram profile. Yes, you heard that right. One belonging to Jerry Gogosian, too. But wait, doesn’t that sound familiar? Jerry as in Jerry Saltz, the prominent art critic? And Gogosian as in a slight alteration of Larry Gagosian, the mysterious owner of the eponymous gallery and something of a God within the art world? Good! The fact that you recognized these references might be the first step on this adventure you’re about to embark.
So why Jerry Gogosian? I think things become pretty clear after you click on this link and browse through any ten memes on there. As someone with a lot of insight into our insane industry of choice, he’s the obvious yet still quite underappreciated choice for all of us. With our interview below, we aim to spread the word about this peculiar character who makes our heads nod in approval several times a day, just in time for the Basel Olympics.
Widewalls: Let us first clear the air: are you in any way related to either Jerry Saltz or Larry Gagosian?
Jerry Gogosian: I think a better question is “Who the fuck are you?” and “where do you get off?”
Jerry Gogosian is an amalgamation of a niche realm of 1%’s, intellectuals, vanity fair players, jet setters, gamblers, bankers, social climbers, celebrities, snake oils salesmen, truth seekers, beauty bathers, and the preciously deluded.
In the art world, where there is Phaidon writing “art history,” we also exist on strong oral traditions that depend heavily on name dropping, real-time myth creation, misguided narratives, and pure fantasy. Therefore, in order to hold our stories together, we must always relate back to one another in a never-ending circle jerk.
Therefore, Jerry Saltz is my perverted uncle who I love and Larry Gagosian is my Oedipal father who after years of therapy, I also love.
Widewalls: It’s fairly obvious that you have experience in pretty much any and every role within the art world. How long has this journey been going on? How did it start?
JG: I prefer the question “Were you born rich and if not, how did you get anywhere in this ultra classist, premium luxury industry?”
I was not born “rich” but I was born with way more privilege than most people on this planet. I’ve lived all over the world, received a world-class education, and I was blessed/cursed with an obsession with beauty that started around the age of three. I am acutely sensitive to my surrounding, symmetry, asymmetry, wabi-sabi, etc. I think this is my greatest gift beyond an ability to verbally articulate my version of reality, one steeped in art. You’ve got to really have an eye and adept powers of observation to be truly exceptional in this field. Oh, I’m also a social climber like every other American as we are essentially an ahistorical society.
So how did I go from being literally NO ONE to someone? I adopted the performative aesthetics of Donald Trump. BEAR WITH ME ON THIS ONE. You know why he won the US election and he’ll win again? Because he has teeth and he goes off script. Why do so many talented artists and decent galleries go nowhere? Simple. They follow the rules, wait for “permission,” and allow themselves to be victimized by bullies. I’m just a really well-dressed punk who never wanted to play by the “rules.” Think back to when you were a kid and someone was messing with you. Did you go tattle to the teacher or did you eventually bust him in the lip? Which one taught him a lesson and gained his fear and respect? The politics of the art world are not unlike a children’s playground or DT’s childlike tactics. It’s a fact that the intelligent, well-meaning, sensitive souls get run over in capitalist situations regularly. Therefore, I decided a while back to keep my core values, while adopting a more aggressive, brass approach.
In any competitive industry, you’ve also gotta be hungry. People who are comfortable in the middle will always remain there. No one becomes EXCEPTIONAL as an afterthought. You’ve gotta be willing to work harder, be braver, learn to be smarter, and make real sacrifices. I would not encourage people to leave the comfort of the middle. I’m being dead serious. It’s wild out here and someone will always be trying to grab you by the pussy.
***I use exceptional as a substitute in this context for successful because there is an important semantic difference between the two words.
Widewalls: I suppose you see memes everywhere and all the time: how long does it take you to make one?
JG: I prefer a more invasive question like “do I make these memes on the toilet?”
The answer is yes. I also make them at stop lights, during boring artist talks, when I’m half listening to my mother on the phone, right in front of the person I’m making fun of, during regular bouts of insomnia. They take about 11 seconds.
Widewalls: I haven’t seen a meme of yours that is related to art journalists, though. What’s your take on us? Is this the one thing you haven’t done in your life (yet)?
JG: I think what you’re really asking is “do I believe in art journalism anymore beyond clickbait or pay to play and is that worth commenting on?”
In America, you’ll be hard-pressed to read any real art criticism or journalism that hasn’t been paid for via third-party PR companies or the direct from the galleries. *See Roberta Smith’s article last week about Jeff Koons literally entitled “Stop Hating Jeff Koons.” LMAO. Artsy is a joke...so is Artnet. When you join their subscription-based scheme, depending on the package you can afford, they are obliged to write articles about you, your artists, or your gallery. It’s offensive, especially when they try to virtue signal “wokeness” in the art world, but have practices such as that.
Widewalls is Swiss, yes? I’m hoping you're subsidized by Patek Phillippe and your government. I love those watches. Jusssayin...
Great journalism on Jerry has primarily come out of Brazil, Germany, and Switzerland. My country hasn’t shown me much love.
Widewalls: You look like someone who would be great at giving advice to all those you make fun of. Is making fun simply more fun for you or can we expect a book from you soon?
JG: The honest question is “do people read actual books anymore?”
I think memes are the new books and more likely to give someone an education in 2019 than John Berger’s Ways of Seeing would. (Ways of Meme’ing could be a good title though.) You may want to think of Jerry heading in the direction of like a television series, maybe… ;) That’s all I’ll say about that.
Widewalls: In your opinion, does the absurdity of art you portray so well have a long future ahead, or will it reach its saturation point soon?
JG: I think what you mean to ask is how much longer will I be able to focus on this given my short millennial attention span?
I could do this all day. The reality of the art world is WAY BETTER than anything I could make up. I’m endlessly fascinated and my dm’s are full of the hottest, most insane gossip. I know ahead of time who buys what from whom, who’s having affairs, who’s going broke, who’s trying to hock what, and most importantly people send me internal documents and price lists for fair and auction previews. I have front row seats to the market and I know who’s got what and where it’s going. I call Jerry my personal TV channel.
Widewalls: What do you think people you work with would say if they knew about this other persona of yours?
JG: Are you asking me if I would go out of business if people knew I was Jerry Gogosian?
To some, I’m a folk hero and to others, I’m an annoying little mosquito in the ear of the art world. I always fantasize about Larry Gagosian freaking out over the account and sending a hitman after Jerry Gogosian. In this particular daydream, I’d somehow survive the attack, have a very public court battle, and it would get optioned into a major motion picture directed by Michael Bay and Charlize Theron would play Jerry.
Widewalls: Jerry Gogosian turns one this September. What has this experience brought for you so far?
JG: I think a more appropriate question would be “have you made any money from Jerry and if so, how much?”
To which I’d answer, if I’d known three Septembers ago what I know now, I wouldn’t be speaking to you because I’d be in semi-retirement on a giant sailboat, eating figs, and dating Leonardo DiCaprio.
All images courtesy Jerry Gogosian.