Marina Abramović and Richard Phillips Initiate Art World Concierge Service

The founders said they were told the $2,500 membership was too low.

Marlies Verhoeven and Daisy Pleat.

The Cultivist, a new members-only club founded by ex-Sotheby’s staffers Marlies Verhoeven and Daisy Peat, is a malleable, but vague, service that is designed to be “personalized.”

Their founding members include the artists Marina Abramović, Glenn Kaino, and Richard Phillips as well as 97 other luminaries in music, art, and fashion.

“From the very beginning we wanted a large percentage of our members to be artists,” Verhoeven told artnet News in a phone interview. “We want to make sure they are central to our universe and giving us feedback.” Ms. Peat also added, “having ambassadors like Marina helps us with access as well. She’s been opening doors left right and center.”


Marina Abramović.
Photo: © 2014 Patrick McMullan Company, Inc.

But what is it offering, exactly? It’s a concierge service for those willing to part with $2,500 for a yearly membership. This year, the Cultivist is opening the gates to 1,000 members, who will be allowed to attend events and dinners, as well as participate in studio visits. As with most social clubs, what you’ll be paying for is a convenient way to access a network.

Verhoeven and Peat launched the Preferred Program at Sotheby’s during their tenures at the auction house. But the duo saw a hole in the market. “We used to get calls on a weekly basis from young collectors, people from the tech industry trying to get VIP access to the art world, but struggling,” Peat told artnet News. “The volume in the type of call that came in, Marlies and I thought we have to go off and start something to help these people.”

Besides offering instant entry to museums around the world, including the Louvre, Tate Modern, MoMA, and LACMA, the membership also grants access to events and a forthcoming app that members can use once they land in a foreign city and need art-related assistance.

Louvre Museum. Photo via Flickr/KennyTeo

The Louvre Museum, in all its glory.
Photo via Flickr/KennyTeo.

Fancy a tea ceremony with Hiroshi Sugimoto or breakfast on the terrace of Palazzo Grassi in Venice? No problem. Perhaps members will even get an exclusive first look at Abramovic’s new OMA-designed institute in Hudson?

The criteria for entering the club is subjective, but not entirely niche. Verhoeven says they are “looking for diversity”—establishing “strict percentages of every type of member, every location, every age range” that are “truly interested in the art world.” The duo relayed that reactions to their $2,500 membership fee have been that it was set “too low.” But that price will surely bar many people from applying. What they are offering is, after all, a luxury for many.

Although the pair said they will not be engaging in direct sales, Verhoeven says, “the goal of our business is for people to become patrons of the arts.”


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