Welcome to FOLLOWING, a new series of profiles and interviews of the art world social media accounts that make us think, laugh, cry, love, or sometimes just “like.”
If you’ve been in a commercial gallery, art fair, or auction house in the past year and suddenly heard a burst of inappropriate giggles from a worker, chances are they were either looking at or thinking about a meme from @jerrygogosian. With over 50K followers, the anonymous Instagram account and its vitriolic reads of the art world’s excesses and idiocies became a major niche touchstone of 2019’s cultural landscape.
Part of jerrygogosian’s appeal is content that alternates between the absurd and highly accurate visual metaphors—often not mutually exclusively. There’s a sense of almost-insider familiarity with the mechanics of the art market and gallery world that suggest the author is a disgruntled present or former employee of a blue-chip gallery. This has led to a lot of speculation about “Jerry’s” true identity.
I caught up with “Jerry” online to talk shop about memes, art world gossip, and predictions for the new year.
Michael Anthony Farley: So I know you need to protect your identity, but can you tell us anything about yourself? I think we can all assume your “day job” is in the arts…
How many people in the world know your real identity?
What gave you the idea for this account? Are you surprised by its success?
I am not surprised. The art world is one of the most conservative social spheres masquerading itself as loose, wild, and free. We all got involved in art so that we could be more of who we are instead of less, and it turns out that this place is worse than Sunday church.
I am over here sitting on the back row of the church talking to myself out loud.
It’s rare that a private account ends up going viral, but you have such a dedicated bastion of fans that just word-of-mouth has spread your meme gospel. Why do you think you’ve resonated so much with so many people?
I think the account is most effective while you’re having a morning poo. It’s a nice catharsis companion to your day in the art world adventure.
People like Jerry because he speaks to the art world’s defects of character without putting really moralizing, boring, preachy assessments of what these things mean. If you think the art world is unfair, I think you can project that onto the jokes. If you love the vanity fair of the whole thing, you’ll love Jerry too. This is the power of the meme. This is the power of reading a text message in whatever voice is inside your head.
Your exhibition is great.
“Your” exhibition is great.
Your “exhibition” is great.
Your exhibition is “great.”
I think I was first introduced to your account at a dinner for visiting artists after a show opened. A friend who runs another gallery started sneakily showing me your memes across the table. By the end of the dinner, everyone was huddled around her phone watching your meme of Hillary Duff slurring “thannnnk youuu for spending time with meee” and laughing hysterically at how accurate it was… You’re sort of the voice of a generation! I feel like so many people are frustrated by their careers (or lack thereof) in the art world and you speak to them. How do you handle this *enormous responsibility*? How do you wield this power?
I handle the “enormous responsibility” by disassociating from it and trying to sort myself out.
I make these jokes because they directly relate to my life. (Walks to soap box and clears throat)
If one follows the logical end of the rhetoric that life and art have zero separation from one another, then one must conclude that we are free to do whatever the fuck we want as artists and it is up to ourselves to find people to buy whatever it is we are selling. There is only so much money people want to spend on paintings and sculptures but, there’s the rest of the civilized world to use as material AND sell your art to. People complain all the time about their shitty art careers and I completely understand, but I really try to encourage people around me to figure out what they have to offer that people actually want to buy. (*When I say buy, I don’t just mean the exchange of money, but who doesn’t love money?) People allow what they learned in art school to stunt them so that they can only do a few things in a certain way to sell to a certain group of people. Doesn’t that sound boring? Doesn’t that sound strange? “Here is this thing that I made and I decided has cultural imperative and it needs to be this price and only these kinds of people can buy it and this must be in the time that I say it should be done and everyone must love me for it.” That is the most limiting prescription of career I’ve ever heard. There is zero career path carved out for anyone in the art world and if anyone tells you there is a “how to” it’s a lie.
The art market is a premium luxury economy. There’s a lot of people trying to live and work within this world that have big issues with money, mostly the lack thereof. In my opinion, they’re singing for their supper to the wrong crowd and they’re setting themselves up for a life of dependence on rich people who they already despise. I heard a great quote the other day: “If they show up for your show in a limo, you’ll leave in a taxi. If they show up for your show in a taxi, you’ll leave in a limo.”
This is a long-winded way of my imploring anyone reading this to use their big beautiful minds to actually CREATE something new and authentic and then complain about the problems that created, rather than cry “the rich people are unfair and greedy” tip and doom yourself. You can still be an artist and find a way to support yourself without academia, grants, or gallery sales, and frankly, the bigger “world” needs the influence of artistic thinkers the most.
(Wipes brow. Fixes hair. Leaves podium.)
Why do you think the art world can be so awful? Doesn’t it seem like most people start out somewhat well-intentioned?
The art world is awful because there are too many dogs fighting over one carcass.
Have you read Sara Thornton’s 7 Days in the Art World? I find myself thinking about it a lot.
I have. I like Sara. Her next book should be called “ART WORLD OVERDOSE” written from rehab in Malibu.
What would a better, more just art world look like?
An emptier one.
Who is the absolute worst person in the art world and why? And have you met them personally?
I really dislike academia, like truly, truly dislike where it has gone and how misleading it is for tens of thousands of people who put money into a career that they’ll never get back. It’s the most worthless education on the planet.
Work for free. Make things that no one should ever see. Go to parties. Sleep your way to the top or the middle or the bottom. Go to every single opening. Go to the actual library. Get a studio amongst artists you admire. Take drugs. Have an emotional breakdown. Rescue a dog. Go vegetarian. DO EVERYTHING EVERYONE ALREADY DOES IN ART SCHOOL and avoid being in $150K worth of debt. Drop out now.
Yes, I am highly acquainted with academia.
But who is the absolute worst person you’ve ever met IRL?
I think my interpretation of the “worst person” in the art world might be different than a lot of people’s. I always root for the villain in cartoons because they’re funnier.
The saddest person in the art world is the person who sold the best years of their lives on someone else’s dreams.
Is there anyone in the art world who gets a bad rap for being successful and rich and famous but is actually a good person you love and respect?
I love Larry Gagosian like a child who loves their abandoning father.
Do you ever feel burnout or “obligated” to produce content? Or is at all pretty cathartic?
Nope. My agent gets onto me about this. She’s like “you randomly make 5 posts at 3 a.m. and then you go days without posting.”
It’s only funny when it’s funny to me and sometimes that doesn’t correspond to when normal people are online and I can’t meet the consumption quota for memes on the internet.
What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve had via the account?
Two girls trying to get Jerry Gogosian to come over and have a threesome with them.
People slipping into my DMs to sext with an avatar.
I guess in like five years the fact that I’m calling this weird will be outdated.
I love the way you handle trolls or “controversy” online. The other day someone was trying to guilt trip you for not using your account as a mouthpiece for the #metoo movement… how often does stuff like this happen?
I used to get people way more often telling me what to post and what not to post. I remind them they can hit the door at anytime. This is an opt-in, choose-your-own-adventure feature of Instagram! I can’t stand masochists and SJWs trying to tell me that what I do should be for their cause. This page is the dialogue that goes on in my head.
What makes people feel so damn entitled to dictate to others how they should be managing their own social media?!
Weak people who can’t figure out why no one wants to buy their version of social justice… complainers… the unfunniest people in the world.
What’s your favorite meme you’ve ever made?
The first meme I ever made only has 21 likes. It’s a picture of a drag queen with super ratchet contouring makeup and it says:
“Me when I started in the art world”
And then it says: “Me now: cold hearted, sophisticated, and vain” with a picture of the same ugly drag queen who’s just got slightly better clothes and crazy sunglasses on. It still makes me laugh.
Wow, I just scrolled back to find that and I am blown away by the sheer volume of memes you have made. What’s your favorite meme someone else has made?
I found memes late in the night a couple years ago. They used to be almost exclusively about depression, isolation, and poor decision making. I see those less and less. I miss them.
Who else do you follow?
What’s the best and worst art from 2019?
HypeBeast and Pharrell are responsible for some pretty egregious trends in art right now. I wouldn’t mind never hearing from either of them again when it comes to art.
Hauser and Wirth is now representing Avery Singer. I love them both.
You seem to have your finger squarely on the alternately speedy and faltering pulse of Western civilization. Any predictions for the art world in 2020?
More art that looks like toys.
More art that looks like cam-girling.
More derivative art.
More decorative art.
Someone will try to pull another banana-style stunt.
More political art as we approach the election.
More people settling out of court and no one hearing about it.
Hauser will continue to expand.
Gagosian will continue to expand.
PACE will continue to expand.
David Zwirner will switch from journalism to satire.
More Hollywood/Artworld crossover relationships