Untitled (N-23), 2010. Photo by: G.R. Christmas / Courtesy Pace Gallery.

NEW YORK - The art world can be a tough audience. Nobody wants to get caught mispronouncing an artist’s name while mingling at the opening of that artist’s show, or worse yet, when calling up an advisor or an auction house about a purchase of that very artist’s work. Considering the waiting list for some gallery superstars, it could be the kiss of death.

Now, thankfully, there is a pronunciation guide to artist’s names, developed by Andrew Goldstein on the site artspace.com. It will make you embarrassment-proof in smart circles for months to come.

I’ve interviewed a lot of people on this list, and when it comes to most – Anish Kapoor (Ah-NEESH Kah-POOR), Vik Muniz  (MOO-knees) and Os Gemeos (OSE ZHEM-e-os) among them – I can feel confident that I have been saying their names correctly and that the list is spot-on.

But I hit a snag when my eye came to one my favorite artists, Tom Nozkowski, a master of abstract forms who shows at Pace Gallery. I spent some time with him in his studio, writing an article for the New York Times about his work.

I don’t think I ever heard him say his own name during the interview, but had always gone on the assumption it was Nahhz-COW-ski, as opposed to the artspace list’s Nose-COW-ski. The issue is that first syllable, not the emphasis—not a big deal, but still.


Untitled (8-135), 2010. Photo by: G.R. Christmas / Courtesy Pace Gallery.

So I called up Tom, one of the world’s nicest people, to sort it all out. He laughed good-naturedly. “I agree with you actually,” he said. “That’s how my grandfather slid through Ellis Island. It’s a phonetic transliteration of the Polish name. But I would never correct anyone – unless they were a telephone solicitor.”

Just to be safe, though, let’s update the list. Tom’s working hard on new pieces as we speak, and once his next show at Pace rolls around, it’s best the we hit this pronunciation on the nahhz.

Tags:Contemporary Art, Artist