MIAMI – Let’s face it insiders and jaded fair-circuit regulars: you don’t know all the art world’s secrets, even if you won’t admit it. Now there’s a handy new guide book to navigate this frequently inscrutable terrain and decode its lingua franca – 100 Secrets of the Art World. Co-authors Thomas Girst and Magnus Resch approached dozens of artists, curators, gallerists, collectors and writers with one question: what is your secret? – and compiled the responses into this entertaining, revealing anthology. Some responses are quite serious, others critical, a few are hilarious. “We need a book like this at this very moment to separate the gossip from the meaningful,” says Girst. With the international art world in town and the gossip mill in overdrive, Miami is the perfect place to release 100 Secrets. Ahead of the book’s release party hosted by Sotheby’s on 1 December at the Soho Beach House, we caught up with Girst, head of cultural engagement for BMW, and Resch, an author and entrepreneur, and asked a few questions.
MAGNUS RESCH AND THOMAS GIRST.
Why does the art world (or just the world) need a book like this and why is the moment for it now?
Thomas Girst: At a time where information is at your fingertips yet knowledge is scarce, we thought of publishing a book that would steer clear of the all-too-often self-referential discourse-spewing writing, as well as from the tabloidization of the art world as a social platform.
Magnus Resch: We both finally wanted to make a book that is – different to our existing books – small, handy, cheap, accessible and works well as a present on a dinner invitation.
Did anyone decline to participate?
TG: We felt strongly we needed some core contributors like Jeff Koons and Olafur Eliasson, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Klaus Biesenbach, in order to move ahead. Some answered right away, some needed subtle nudges time and again all the way to all-out cyberstalking. Did some never get back? For sure. Did many more complain that they were not included? You bet.
100 SECRETS OF THE ART WORLD, A NEW BOOK BY THOMAS GIRST AND MAGNUS RESCH.
Were there any answers that you found particularly surprising?
TG: We really loved the honesty and sincerity as the answers were coming in. The force of the book is what some thought might have turned out to be its biggest challenge – its eclecticism. The spectrum is so broad every page can take you by surprise.
MR: I like Thomas Demand, who says: “Every name in the art world is written with a pencil." Another favourite is Matthias Mühling: “My grandmother was a conceptual artist. Wherever she spent her holidays, for many years, she always sent me a postcard with the same line: “Alle Scheiße, Deine Emma” (“Everything sucks, Love Emma”). And Emma wasn’t even her name!”
A DETAIL FROM THE BOOK: ZAHA HADID'S ART WORLD SECRET.
If, as you say in your preface, “discretion is the currency of the art world,” is there the risk that your book could devalue that currency?
MR: Ha! Well this is where the playfulness comes in. I mean, Larry Gagosian hits the nail on the head with his contribution: “I read somewhere that one of the most important attributes of a successful art dealer is to be able to keep a secret.” Of course, a secret revealed is no longer a secret. That is what we were toying with. At a time when everything is posted, shared and liked or voluntarily dragged out into the open for the public to indulge in the strongest asset remains secrecy or rather, privacy.
TG: In 100 Secrets, Isabelle Graw is rather close to genius when she writes what the “pressure to perform oneself” reveals that “what remains hidden is their fears: The fear of losing their social positions, their fear of not succeeding, their fear of an unpredictable, insecure future and their fear that someone might discover that they are not that competent after all.”
SECRETS BY HOLGER LIEBS AND PARI EHSAN.
You did not include your own responses in the book. Do you each have a secret to share with us here?
TG: Come on, it would have been presumptuous on our part to contribute our own secrets amongst the greats!
TG: (laughs) At the very beginning, to lure our contributors at a time when we had none, we came up with faux samples, such as the redefinition of Benjamin's term of the “aura” via Google’s Arts Project.
MR: Our one secret we’d love to share though, pertaining to our actual book is the bonus track: count the names on the contributor's pages and you will see that you got a whole lot more secrets than you bargained for!
Lead image: a detail of the page revealing Thomas Demand's art world secret.