Cristina Ruiz: New York attitude

It’s a good thing I didn’t start the spot tour in New York because, if I had, I probably would have given up after the first gallery. Why is it that Gagosian staff here, in what must surely be the three most commercially successful galleries in the international franchise, are always so caustic? Even when they’re polite and (reluctantly) helpful, they can’t be bothered to look at you for longer than three seconds so that all conversations take place while they’re staring at their computers... What on earth are they doing that is so important? Are they in the middle of a multi-million dollar sale to Steve Cohen? It makes you want to bang your head against the counter. I am reminded of a conversation I had a few years ago with one of Bill Gates’s art buyers. He had arrived at a Gagosian gallery in New York unannounced. Nobody knew who he was when he walked through the door. He was so put off by the snottiness of the staff that he left the gallery and never returned.

On the plus side, the guards here are really friendly. Some of them smile at you when you look at them. Amazing. I ask the woman posted in the Madison Avenue room with the earliest spot painting of all on display what she thinks of it. “It’s different from all the others, it’s got its own style,” she observes. She’s right. Entitled simply Spot Painting and dating from 1986, it was made by Damien Hirst himself before he had worked out the rules that all subsequent spot paintings would follow. It is the first and by far the best. Unlike its successors, Spot Painting is a jumble of messy colour. There is no grid, the colours are repeated in many of the spots and the work is painted not on canvas but on three pieces of board fixed together. And unlike the other spot paintings—anonymous, inscrutable, boring—this one looks like a riot of balloons released on a winter’s day. It’s charming.

I ask the gallery staff if they can email me a picture. No, they cannot. I need to email somebody else, they say, and the person I am speaking to is unable to simply pass on my request. I guess she’s also negotiating a sale to Steve Cohen. The next day I follow up my email with a phone call to ask if the 1986 Spot Painting is on loan from a museum or a private collection or if it is for sale. The person who answers the phone at the Madison Avenue gallery doesn’t “have that information”. Please call someone else, she says. But the person I am told to call is not available and my email requesting a picture goes unanswered.So to see the image you’ll have to go to the Gagosian website. The staff in New York are so deliberately unhelpful that it makes you wonder if they’ve been specifically instructed to obstruct the press. Or maybe it’s just me.

Next and FINAL stop: Beverly Hills.

The running tally

Return flight from London to New York: £399.94 ($633)

Taxi from JFK to Gagosian Gallery, Madison Avenue: $55

Staying with friends in New York: FREE!

Total today: $688

TOTAL SPENT SO FAR: $2751.75

Published Wed, 08 Feb 2012 08:58:00 GMT

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7 Sep 12
16:57 CET

PETER KELLETT, SANTA CLARA

Out of all the galleries I have contacted, none have been more rude and insulting than the NY Gagosian Galleries. I was trying to get some one to look at a new art medium possibly for their artists, not only rude, but insulting, and then she hung up the phone. They act like they are the art stars, not that the art stars would act like that. You get what I mean.

13 Jun 12
23:15 CET

STEPHANIE, NEW YORK

It's because they get hundreds of people a day walking through asking annoying questions and truthfully, they do have a lot of work to do on the computers!

23 Feb 12
17:1 CET

IN DEFENSE, LONDON

As someone who interned at Gagosian, it's not really their fault they're unhelpful. The front of desk people aren't told anything! No prices, no buying information, no access to these things, no access to images.....

17 Feb 12
18:49 CET

LINDA, VENICE

I have had numerous dealings with a staff member from the New York office and she has been gracious and kind each and every time. And I was only spending $100!

17 Feb 12
16:13 CET

PENNY LIU, BEIJING

I so so glad there is a person who has the same feeling and question as I do, too! Christina, you are not alone!

9 Feb 12
22:45 CET

CASSANDRA, NEW YORK

Don't take it personally—they think attitude/unhelpful unless your face is on a million dollar buyer bill—goes with the job. They don't seem to know you meet the same people going down as climbing up the daggers you've stuck in people's backs!

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Cristina Ruiz

Over the next six weeks, Cristina Ruiz, our editor-at-large, has taken up the challenge to try to visit all 11 Gagosian galleries showing Damien Hirst’s spot paintings. Follow her as she blogs about her travels here.