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Adam Parker Smith’s “I’m Looking for a Gallery Better Then This One” (2013) at the Davidson Contemporary booth of Pulse New York 2013 (photo Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

The following “correspondence” was sent to us anonymously, and we publish it here as an archival document indicating the state of collector/dealer relationships in the 21st century.

[NAME REDACTED aka Collector]: HI!

I am a SF-based collector and co-founder of the [REDACTED] startup. I’m really into cool digitals that you art world types consider “art” (LOL). My friends and I were doWNing some dank organic Humboldt edibles last month and decided to start a collection with .5% of the money ($20 million) we made after we went IPO. Holla, amirite?! 😀

We really like the work of xxxx and we would like to buy some for the newly established Awesome iCollection. Please let me know if you have something available, like asap! 🙂

We have not officially launched our website but peep the beta version — it will give you the spirit of what we do and what we collect and how cool we are.

[NAME REDACTED aka Dealer]: Thanks for the e-mail and the interest in the works by xxxx. Unfortunately we have no works to offer at this point, but promise to keep your interest in mind.

I should mention that you’re possibly the first person I’ve ever encountered who has a string of 34 social media accounts at the conclusion of your email. If you don’t mind me asking, what’s FurNation and MyFreeImplants?

Collector: Thank you very much for taking the time to reply, and not replying all (I think I accidentally cc’d my life coach on that last one, yikes, that’s gonna get judgey). I’d be totally happy to discuss further on the phone or meet in person at one of the 200 art fairs you’ll be doing this year. Will you be at the new ArtGoa? If so, I have a sweet place I can recommend, and if you need a hook up (HINT, hint) I got ya. Or will you be at Art Basel Burning Man? Meet us at the Playa! We are hella interested in the work of another of your artists too so pleeeease keep us in mind ($$$) for her upcoming show.

Dealer: Before we proceed, we customarily ask our clients the following questions to determine if they’ll be a good fit with our capital-artistic praxis:

  • Benjamin or Adorno?
  • Venice or Kassel?
  • Krauss or Buchloh?
  • Cenek’s digital earth art or Beheshti’s spatial practice? (no Googling)
  • Top five major museum boards you are members of (must have annual budget of over $200M)
  • Portrait by Warhol, Katz, or Peyton?

Collector: Who? Wha? You people are hilARious!

Dealer: I am afraid that you have no sense of purpose, and a strange capitalization habit, and that we will not be able to make your “collection” a priority.

In all fairness, I am an eager supporter of not wasting my time or the time of others — though I do like to waste the time of my employees by sending them on errands to launder our gallery dog’s clothes, hand-deliver organic flowers to clients, or literally wait for paint to dry, but that’s neither here nor there, which sounds like a Lawrence Weiner piece, which I’m mentioning only because your collection tells me you probably don’t know who that is.

Regardless, I have looked at your “beta” site, and I find that the decisions you’ve made so far provide a context that is not the right one for our artists.

It may be that the collection is set up as an investment fund or to give it the appearance of a Philips auction catalogue — if you don’t know what I mean, that’s considered an insult in my circles, and it tells a fairly sad story of what is generally sold today and what will no doubt sell for more tomorrow. Best of luck with building whatever kind of “collection” you wish, but we will be unable to contribute. I think there are some galleries in Santa Fe or Boston you might be better off trying to connect with.

Collector: TL;DR! Haha, jk. Thanks for speaking my language — I’m feeling a connection. 😀 Well, in the spirit of keepin’ it real, I’ll admit that our collection shows that we’re n00bs, and buy everything via Instagram (who knew Oscar Murillos looks like shit in person!?!). We started collecting at this year’s Burning Man (did we hug there?), we never used art advisors (though I’ve slept with 3 #humblebrag), and I never studied art (I do have that Masterpieces of the SFMOMA book on my tablet though).

I see this enterprise as a Generational Push (zing!). I buy works from artists that I can relate to because we share a common history (like Beyoncé), hence my focus on the “emerging scene.” I am myself in my early 30s (gettin’ up there!). I have never sold anything and I am not intending to — I focus on incubating the VCs that incubate other VCs, so, like, selling art is a snooze-fest in comparison, y’know? And auctions, like Facebook, are for old people. I prefer art fairs (for the prosecco on tap … YOLO!)

In your email you mention the choices I have made, but I have to tell you that the art world is very difficult to break into for non-insiders, which I can relate to because I’m in tech, and pretentious gallerists like you (unlike really pretentious VCs — btw do you know if Fred Wilson is still giving art advice to teens or something?) refuse to sell to brahs like me because “we do not provide an appropriate context.” #Trending: “Dolla dolla bill y’all.” Have you heard of this phrase? Or do you pretend not to know it when you sell empty space as conceptual art in Miami?

People don’t really tell me no.

Well, here is some wisdom I’m going to recycle in my next TEDx talk, and it’s gonna go viral: By freezing me out via stale elitism you force me to only buy the works that I can access easily. This makes the volatility of prices a self-fulfilling prophecy (holllaa, Ayn Rand!). So, have fun with that.

On my side, I will still try to support what you consider “mediocre” artists that fit into my “context,” hoping that one day your world of privilege will come to an end and I can erect my own domain of privilege that will shut you out just the same. Oh wait, I already have. (Been hacked lately?)

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5 replies on “Dealer to Collector: Your Art Sucks”

  1. Unfortunately you did not include the ARTIST in this mix of conversations: Typical & Not really surprising. Perhaps it would have added a nice bit spice to the above.

    Is it always about the money and the money makers? The artists will always be considered the outsiders even when then reach the Apotheosis! Even at that level the collectors and dealers will take credit for making the artist a Deity. It has to work that way to keep the market climbing to insure the economic bottom line.

    Your parody (if it is a parody) really hints at some salient points: I always had the feeling dealers really were failed stand up comedians.

    The collectors, well, they just have too much money to spend.

    Otherwise how do you explain and obscene auction market that collects outrageous sums for painted canvas. If van Gogh’s brother had trouble selling Vincent’s work when HE was alive how is it possible today that those same canvases are now worth hundreds of millions? Dealer Hype? Collectors greed?

    The average person is just as happy enjoying them in the museums around the world.

    And DON’T, dealers and collects, applaud yourself for putting them in Museums. One way or another Great Art arrives in museums.

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