Art Dealer Brett Gorvy Shares His Instagram Tips
The co-owner of Lévy Gorvy chats about his novel approach to the image-sharing app
Brett Gorvy has a favorite pastime: Instagram. The former longtime head of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s famously Instagrammed a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting of Sugar Ray Robinson and two days later, landed a buyer, at $24 million. For his feed, Gorvy, now co-owner of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, combines art and poetry—juxtaposing a painting by Willem de Kooning with words by poet George Seferis, or a Gustav Klimt with Pink Floyd lyrics—to deliriously popular effect.
At last count he had more than 70,000 followers. We had questions, he had answers.
Which comes first: the image or the words?
I’m often inspired by the image, but sometimes I listen to music lyrics or am reading and the image comes to mind. I’m now a better photographer and writer because Instagram forces you to be concise in sharing ideas. As with art, structure and limitations are good.
What’s your Instagram process?
If I don’t complete a post in 20 minutes, I scrap it. I can do them anywhere, anytime. I don’t sleep that much, and I spend a lot of time waiting for taxis and planes. I like that this medium is 24/7, 365 days a year.
What’s your response to art-world people who are dismissive of social media?
I’d say you’re missing out because this is a fascinating window on the art world, especially on the creative process. Great artists like Richard Prince, Mark Grotjahn, and Cecily Brown are continually on Instagram, showing works in progress, in the studio, in real time. Sometimes it’s to the point where you think, When do you actually paint?!
What advice do you have for design and art collectors just starting out on Instagram?
It’s a great resource for exhibitions and helps you learn what’s out there—Lévy Gorvy posts every day—but never use it as an excuse not to see things in person.
Whom do you enjoy following?
I follow all the major museums and galleries. Edward Lee is a collector in London who suddenly started posting about six months ago. I love what he does. Phillipe Ségalot is a top art dealer who recently turned on to Instagram. He’s only got a few hundred followers, but in a few months it will be thousands because he’s a natural tastemaker.
Why have you taken to Instagram?
If you love the arts, it’s natural to want to communicate about it. It’s like a public diary. Hashtags are a social-media shorthand for everything you could write. One of the hashtags I often use is #sharethelove. For me, that’s what it’s all about.
This interview was edited and condensed.
Here, Galerie shares a selection of his posts below.
– "I am just a poor boy Though my story's seldom told I have squandered my resistance Fora pocket full of mumbles, such are promises All lies and jests Still a man hears what he wants to hear And disregards the rest – – When I left my home and my family I was no more than a boy In the company of strangers In the quiet of the railway station Running scared, Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters Where the ragged people go Looking for the places Only they would know – – Asking only workman's wages I come looking for a job But I get no offers Just a come-on from the whores On Seventh Avenue I do declare There were times when I was so lonesome I took some comfort there, le le le le le – In a clearing stands a boxer And a fighter by his trade And he carries the reminders Of ev'ry glove that laid him down Or cut him till he cried out In his anger and his shame – 'I am leaving, I am leaving' – But the fighter still remains – Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie – – SIMON & GARFUNKEL, 'The Boxer' – – The main character of Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' bears a striking resemblance to the early life of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Born in Brooklyn to a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat left home at 15, dropping out of school and living by his wits on the streets of New York until he was discovered fully formed as a primitive expressionist at the age of twenty-one. As a lone black artist in a totally white art world, Basquiat identified with the struggling black boxer and painted him in a series of 'surrogate self-portraits', as a crucified victim and a heroic victor in the ring. Here he depicts middle weight champion "Sugar Ray Robinson", 1982, a powerhouse of muscle in his splendid orange boxer shorts, almost shackled by the bulk of his superhuman strength and the breaking balls of his gloves. Jean-Michel Basquiat's 'Sugar Ray', 1982 will be on view this week in Hong Kong as part of Christie's curated selling exhibition, 'The Loaded Brush". – – #famousnegroathletes #jeanmichelbasquiat #powerandtheglory #theloadedbrush #christies @_inouekoji #theboxer #wordsandimages
– 'I want to be like one of those who race With bolting steeds across the night-black air, With flaming torches like unfastened hair Aflutter in the stormwind of their chase. I want to stand in front as on a prow, Erect and slender like a banner scrolled, Dark but accoutered in a helmet of gold, Which glitters restlessly; aback of me Ten men, sprung from the same opacity, In helmets unsteadily aglint like mine, Now clear as glass, now shaded, hoar, and blind. And one stands next to me and blows us space Out of a bugle's lips that scream and flare, And blows black solitude, and thoroughfare, Through which, as through a speeding dream, we race: – – The houses in our wake drop to their knees, There snake and skew towards us street and lane, The squares that veer away from us we seize, Our horses pelting on like sheets of rain." – – – RAINER MARIA RILKE, 'The Boy' – – – Happy Birthday, Cy Twombly! Born today 25 April 1928. – – In front of Cy Twombly's enormous 'Untitled', 1971. The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. – – #abouttheboy #cytwombly #rainermariarilke #backtotheblackboard @sfmoma #blacksilence #poemfortheday #thismortalcoil #sigh #followinginthefootstepsofgiants
– 'may my heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living whatever they sing is better than to know and if men should not hear them men are old – – may my mind stroll about hungry and fearless and thirsty and supple and even if it's sunday may i be wrong for whenever men are right they are not young – – and may myself do nothing usefully and love yourself so more than truly there's never been quite such a fool who could fail pulling all the sky over him with one smile' – – – E. E. Cummings, 'May My Heart Always Be Open To Little Birds' – – HENRI MATISSE, 'The Dessert: Harmony in Red', 1908. Commissioned for the Moscow home of Russian collector Sergei Shchukin. The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. – – "There are always flowers for those who want to see them." – – – HENRI MATISSE – – – #harmonyinred #henrimatisse #sundaymorning #eecummings #birdcall #sergeishchukin #insearchofharmony #poemfortheday #summerishere #poetsandpainters
– 'Mother, do you think they'll drop the bomb? – Mother, do you think they'll like this song? – Mother, do you think they'll try to break my balls? – Ooh, aah, should I build the wall? – – Mother, should I run for president? – Mother, should I trust the government? – Mother, will they put me in the firing line? – Ooh, aah, is it just a waste of time? – – Hush now, baby, baby, don't you cry Mama's gonna make all your nightmares come true Mama's gonna put all of her fears into you – Mama's gonna keep you right here under her wing – She won't let you fly but she might let you sing Mama's gonna keep baby cozy and warm – – Ooh, babe, ooh, babe, ooh, babe Of course Mama's gonna help build the wall – – Mother, do you think she's good enough – for me? – Mother, do you think she's dangerous – tell me? – Mother, will she tear your little boy apart? – Ooh, aah, mother, will she break my heart? – – Hush now, baby, baby, don't you cry Mama's gonna check out all your girlfriends for you Mama won't let anyone dirty get through Mama's gonna wait up till you get in – Mama will always find out where you've been Mama's gonna keep baby healthy and clean – – Ooh, babe, ooh, babe, ooh, babe You'll always be a baby to me – – Mother, did it need to be so high? – – – – PINK FLOYD, 'Mother' – – – GUSTAV KLIMT, 'Three Ages of Woman' (detail), 1905. Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome. – – #motherlylove #mothersday #britishstyle #gustavklimt #motherandchild #pinkfloyd #maternalinstincts #protectanddestroy #findesiècle #babeinarms #thewall @lagallerianazionale – Happy Mother's Day ❤️??
– 'I have named you queen. There are taller ones than you, taller. There are purer ones than you, purer. There are lovelier than you, lovelier. – – But you are the queen. – – When you go through the streets no one recognizes you. No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks at the carpet of red gold that you tread as you pass, the nonexistent carpet. – – And when you appear all the rivers sound in my body, bells shake the sky, and a hymn fills the world. – – Only you and I, only you and I, my love, listen to it.' – – – PABLO NERUDA, 'The Queen' – ? – – The 'Femmes de Venise', 1956-57, by Alberto Giacometti with a backdrop of Philip Guston's 'Division', 1975, on view at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, near Copenhagen, Denmark. One of the greatest museum experiences for modern art in the world. Before there was the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, there was Louisiana. I first visited with my family when I was about 12 years old on a cruise tour of Scandinavia and it was my first encounter with Giacometti – I can remember the moment of seeing his sculptures installed in a room with floor to ceiling windows looking out onto a sublime natural setting of trees and water. I was spellbound. It has stayed with me always. #kingsandqueens #royalcopenhagen #albertogiacometti #philipguston #existentialcrisis #favoriteartists @louisianamuseum #pabloneruda #lovepoems #poemfortheday