Los Angeles Magazine has its Stefan Simchowitz profile online now. Michael Kaplan does a great job with it. Too bad the story is already a rehash of a rehash of the Simcho pseudo-phenomenon. With attention-seeking enemies like Jerry Saltz, the whole Simcho tale is rapidly turning into a melodrama where all sides stake out an extreme position in a Manichean struggle.
What’s getting lost here is that Simcho seems to actually be part of a more important trend, demand from buyers who are not necessarily collectors. Simchowitz provides an easy access point to owning and living with interesting art for those who don’t want to devote themselves to becoming experts. Most Bentley buyers are not motorheads; few yacht owners are experienced seaman; and planes are now owned by those without pilot’s licenses. Is it any wonder we have buyer’s who are not collectors?
Here’s the tell in the story where Simcho relishes his black hat status. This quote also reveals that Simcho’s designation as a pariah may be more connected to his personality than to his business model:
When Simchowitz considers those who shun him, he shrugs it off as an “aesthetic choice,” borrowing an existentialist trope about why nations go to war. Simchowitz, whose high hairline and three-day growth of beard recall the actor Jean Reno, often seems on a war footing. He’ll tell you he’s under assault while explaining with a smile how he plays offense. I hear him warn a gallery owner about his “permafrost shit list” and threaten to drive down prices of a certain artist by selling pieces below market value for revenge. “I am amped by vendettas,” he declares, sounding like a character in a James Ellroy novel. “I love to fuck with people who fuck with me. It’s my juice.” And it may well be, but that isn’t why Simchowitz has earned pariah status in particular precincts of New York and L.A.; rather, it’s his wont to ignore unspoken rules that have long dictated the business of art.
And the author gratifies him with some choice slurs from the gallerists who supposedly hate him:
I relate all of this to a sometime friend of Simchowitz’s named Carlos Rivera, who coded an algorithm for evaluating the monetary value of artworks. “There are a lot of people who just don’t like Stefan,” Rivera responds. Gavin Brown dismisses Simchowitz as an “interesting, vulnerable, pathetic character.” Poe, according to Simchowitz, called him “a piece of shit—four times!” The artist and photographer Richard Prince joked on Instagram about filming a Simchowitz biopic titled Patron Putz. And a New York dealer I spoke with likened him to Freddy Krueger.
Why Art Gallery Owners Love to Hate Stefan Simchowitz (Los Angeles Magazine)