Jerry Gogosian, the formerly anonymous Instagram persona and art world satirist is teaming up with Sotheby’s to curate “Suggested Followers: How the Algorithm is Always Right,” a 20-artist group show whose curation was guided by the social media platform’s content ranking system. Gogosian—whose real name is Hilde Lynn Helphenstein—uses her dark sense of humor and memes to explore the boundaries and gatekeeping of the art world. However, outside of her account, Helphenstein is an independent art curator and former Los Angeles gallerist, and her show for Sotheby’s, which opens tomorrow at the auction house’s New York gallery, features both established and emerging talents, many of whom have not yet been introduced to the market.
Since launching Jerry Gogosian, an homage to art critic Jerry Saltz and art dealer Larry Gagosian, in 2018, Helphenstein has become one of art criticism’s most funny and vivacious voices. Her fresh perspective, too, picks at social media’s influence on the art market. “We are inextricably living with the algorithm which acts like God and the Devil,” she says ahead of the show. “It fulfills wishes, informs your style, shapes your aspirations, and it visually teaches you about contemporary art. On the other hand, it can also shadowban you, humiliate you and alienate you.”
Helphenstein curated the group of artists for the show using the Explore Page feature on the visuals-first app—a tab that suggests Instagram accounts a user may like based on their activity. @JerryGogosian’s account suggested artists including Sarah Thibault, Ronan Day-Lewis, Gigi Rose Gray, Joshua Citarella, and Marc Quinn for this first-of-its-kind collaboration. “The concept for the exhibition was natural,” she says. “Since the show was curated by @jerrygogsian, it had to be art based inside Instagram's Suggested Followers and now we intentionally brought Jerry's likes and saves into IRL. The Sotheby's team was fully on board with that too and I was a little shocked to be honest. We were letting an app curate via an avatar.”
This “IRL explore page” of a selling show is not only a commentary on the power of Instagram, but also an opportunity to showcase relatively unknown artists alongside those who have been previously recognized. It reflects the way that social media influences what art collectors like, buy, and discover. It’s a space that Jerry Gogosian knows well. “As we got to know each other better,” says Helphenstein of the Sotheby's Buy Now team, with whom she collaborated, “I think they began to understand that Jerry is a character that lives in an absurd universe.”
Jerry Gogosian proves that the old way of doing things doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right or the only one. The exhibition concept builds a community unlike the current art world, where accessibility and opportunity are open to many more talents. And its curatorial strategy, which relies on strings of Internet-driven connections, is a truer tale of the way that art historical research can be done today. For this show, a Marc Quinn work featuring Kim Kardashian led Helphenstein to Max Rippon’s hand-painted absurdist headlines and then to Seibren Versteeg’s digital artwork in which a computer program creates a daily image of him reading the newspaper and finally to Henry Gunderson’s paintings of a computer’s mind. “AI is binary at the moment, and it can really punish you if the program reads you wrong,” says the curator. “It's rough and rewarding depending on how you play the game. And finally, you'll encounter a Kardashian no matter where you look.”
“Suggested Followers: How the Algorithm is Always Right,” is on view at Sotheby’s New York from September 24, 2022, to October 3, 2022, at 1334 York Ave, New York, NY 10021.