Stefan Simchowitz Slams Gallerist Lisa Cooley

The closure is evidence of 'systemic failure' in the art market.

Lisa Cooley. Photo Neil Rasmus/Patrick McMullan.
Lisa Cooley. Photo Neil Rasmus/Patrick McMullan.

Following Manhattan dealer Lisa Cooley’s announcement that she will close her gallery after eight years in business, the Los Angeles-based art dealer and collector Stefan Simchowitz has written a post on Facebook citing the closure as evidence of the contemporary art market’s “systemic failure.”

On Monday Cooley told Art News that maintaining a gallery of her size “is not a sustainable business right now,” and lamented the art fair model, which she says has turned galleries into “roving merchants.” She admitted that “the changes in the art market are beyond what I can comprehend,” citing the increasing influence of social media as an example.

Known for his candid, unfiltered, and scathing criticisms of the art world’s structures, Simchowitz suggested that Cooley was forced to shut up shop due to her unwillingness to “expand her collector base,” complaining that “she sold only to the best institutions and most influential collectors.”

Stefan Simchowitz Photo: Patrick McMullan Photo/Neil Rasmus/PMc

Stefan Simchowitz. Photo: Patrick McMullan/Neil Rasmus/PMc.

Simchowitz also lashed out at contemporary artists, calling them “greedy, selfish, narrow minded asses, who think they have landed on the moon because the Whitney [Museum] bought a work on paper.”

He then references a tip gleaned from Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart (which is actually from Aesop’s Fables): “you must bend like a reed or break,” he notes. “This is the lesson for the art system today.”

He urges dealers not to complain about social media and “how you have to be online for 30 minutes a day and opine how you lose community and a sense of the personal.”

Responding to Simchowitz’s post, the artist and critic Walter Robinson asks, “So what are you saying? She should have sold to you? That would have saved her?” Robinson’s then succinctly sums up the issue for Simchowitz: “Basically sales dropped off. How is a dealer supposed to avoid that? And what does the attitude of the ‘asses’ have to do with it?”


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