NEW YORK — Do artists need agents? Are galleries obsolete? These types of questions seem to get louder and louder in an increasingly celebified art world that has seen Damien Hirst cut his dealers out of business transactions, artists sign with fashion agencies, and the rise of figures like Vito Schnabel and Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld who don’t curate exhibitions so much as “produce” them.
It’s too early to know all the answers, but some industry entrepreneurs are happy to embrace the uncertainty. Last year the firm cultureEDIT opened to serve the Los Angeles area’s “multidisciplinary ideation” needs, and now New York has The Committee, a company launched last month to consult with institutions on cultural programming, host salons, represent artists, and curate exhibitions, among many other things.
The core members — Ricky Lee, Diana Burroughs, Alexandra Sacha Wagle, and Laura Mintz — embody the diverse fields they aim to serve. They range in age from their early 20s to early 60s and have collectively worked as publicists, fashion editors, art dealers, writers, and curators. So far, the Museum of Arts and Design has met with the company to duscuss partnering on event planning.
“We found that a lot of people didn’t want to go to a boring lecture at a museum,” said Lee. “They wanted something more fun and maybe more adventurous.”
Other upcoming projects involve consulting on Free Arts NYC’s April benefit auction honoring Richard Phillips, organizing sales at the downtown boutique Tucker, and hosting a regular salon-style program at the nightclub No. 8. In the future, such events are likely to shoot off into the realms “surrounding ballet, television production, and the culinary arts,” according to Wagle.
But The Committee maintains a special connection to fine art. In May, it will present a popup exhibition of paintings by Connecticut artist Pam Sztybel, which they expect to then travel to London and Paris. And Burroughs, a former art dealer who was married to Jackson Pollock’s nephew Jason McCoy, is spearheading the business side. So far, the group has signed on to represent the artist Philip Smith, for whom they will be "organizing studio visits, doing some PR, selling their artwork, and maybe advising them,” said Lee. Which seems to describe The Committee's cross-disciplinary, pan-promotional approach to just about everything.
Update, Feb. 26: The Museum of Arts and Design's vice president of external affairs, Sophie Henderson, pointed out that the institution ultimately chose not to collaborate with The Committee: "We had a meeting and we decided not to work with them."