By MEGAN REED, April 2019
It was Andy Warhol who purportedly said in the pre-internet-twentieth century that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. Today, with endless outlets for self promotion, from social media to reality television, to name but a few, this prediction is undoubtedly true. People can -- and do -- become famous for branding themselves alone (ask Kim Kardashian). Everything can be a product and everyone can be a businessperson with a marketable idea or invention, whether tangible, useful or otherwise. In this mode, as artists like Jeff Koons have since proven, the lines are invariably blurred between creator and creation, entertainment and spiritual values, gross sales receipts and fair market values. Stereotypically disenfranchised, committed to a life on the margins in pursuit of their artistic vision, art as a viable career has rarely been seen as a monetizable venture. So, in 2019, where does this all leave the artist?
Marcel Katz, entrepreneur and art aficionado is here to show you. The Miami native is barely thirty years old but is transforming the ways in which art is experienced, sold and even produced. He’s a dealer, an agent, a publisher, and a producer all rolled into one under the umbrella called “The Art Plug”, a superhuman amalgamation of the high flying practices of high finance, entertainment production and blue chip galleries: Marcel Katz Art, an art dealership; Monsieur Marcel, an art publishing company; The Art Plug Powerhouse, an art fair and exhibition event company; and, The Art Plug Agency, which represents dozens of artists for commercial purposes. He’s a force to be reckoned with, challenging traditional power structures, and making major waves doing it.
Miami’s tropical locale attracts a certain jet set eager to participate in its nightlife, as well as a certain monied class, and with that has come a vibrant reputation for it as an art capital, hosting the blue chip Art Basel every year where many of the largest deals and sales are made. It’s a truism of both art and business that doing what you know and love is generally the path toward both success and fulfillment. Katz was raised on the multi-faceted (and quite honestly, legendary) cultural scene that is Miami, working his way up in the nightlife industry, eventually becoming the Creative Director of The Opium Group, where he began collaborating with artists to create installations in unusual venues; opportunities to both distinguish a club experience, while also giving artists crucial paid commissions and exposure. This magical combination seems to be Katz’s golden ticket: if a criticism of a club experience can be that it’s soulless and/or committed to consumption, adding art into the mix decidedly levitates this experience, providing an experience that can be both entertaining but also enlightening.
Katz’s influence has extended far beyond commissions in nightclubs, to placing artworks directly into the hands of collectors as a dealer. The oft-described “youngest dealer of Salvador Dali” maintains a roster of artists both living and not – an eclectic mix of often vividly chromatic artworks, from up-and-comers he finds on Instagram, to the art world darling Kaws, or the late Jean Michel Basquiat and, perhaps the mother lode of high yield art investment: Jeff Koons himself. Katz is humble when describing this success, delineating how it evolved organically out of his own upbringing surrounded by art (his mother was a painter and his half-brother Parisian street art curator) and his early adulthood befriending and beginning to collect artists on his own. His business acumen seems derived from a true passion for art, one which has him operating under a pretty strong belief that art should be everywhere, and accessible by everyone in some shape or form. (Further evidence of this are his arranged collaborations for artists with major brands like Adidas, Lyft and Atlantic Records).
The many strands of The Art Plug are creating sustainable possibilities to expand the reach and scope of where the public can see and experience art, moving it from being something to be experienced in specialized institutions like museums, and into the public realm. With Katz’s touch, we suddenly see art everywhere.
And in this Katz has become the contemporary artist’s greatest ally: he’s smart, savvy, committed to creating the conditions for creative expression while simultaneously being incredibly nimble at navigating high stakes business terrain so that it works in an artist’s favor (not something that is often the case; ask any starving artist). If art and artists are going to survive in an era that increasingly faces a widening inequality gap, we need more Marcel Katzes to shift the model. Or maybe one Marcel Katz is more than enough, just look what he’s done already. WM
Megan Reed is a writer and fine artist based in Los Angeles, California.