Working in the same industry as your partner is never easy—especially when that industry happens to be the art world. Just ask any woman artist ever. If the patriarchy doesn’t get to you and you manage to scrape together some success, jealousy and competition just might. And yet, there are plenty of art world power couples today killing the game—without killing each other. How do they do it?
To get to the bottom of this mystery, we called up (ok, emailed) Gillie and Marc, the most prolific public artists in New York’s history, according to the New York Times.
Here’s what they said:
Gillie: I personally love working alongside my partner. We work together on our art, encouraging each other to try new things and take risks that I would never have taken on my own.
Marc: Working alongside Gillie gives me so much inspiration. I feel so much more creative when we’re working together, bouncing ideas off one another to create something truly magical.
Hmm… no mention of competition or jealousy. Either they’re holding back on us, or they’ve somehow dodged all the pitfalls of art world dating and landed in a healthy, happy and supportive relationship. You hear that, guys? Time to toss out our dating models based on Frida and Diego—there’s hope for us all!
And there’s more where that came from. Healthy, functional couples abound in the art world—a point for “like attracts like” and against “opposites attract.” We’re not the first to round up art world power couples, but we couldn’t resist profiling some of our favorites. Without further ado, let’s hear from 10 fabulous art world power couples giving us the faith we need to hop back on Hinge.
1) José Kuri and Mónica Manzutto – gallerists
This famed Mexico City art power couple founded their eponymous gallery, kurimanzutto (see what they did there?) back in 1999—but their own partnership goes back even further. The two met in New York when Manzutto was 19 and Kuri was 23 and the rest is history: since then, they’ve been “partners in every sense.” Aw.
With a lot of dedication and hard work, what began as a pop-up flea market stall has evolved into one of the world’s most respected galleries. Firmly rooted in its heritage, Kurimanzutto still maintains a roster of primarily Mexican and Latin American artists. As the demand for new art markets continues to rise, so will Kuri and Manzutto.
2) Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith – art critics
If you haven’t heard of Jerry Saltz, are you even in the art world? Love him or hate him, the man is the slightly pervy but well-meaning uncle of the art world. No less talented—or renowned—is his wife, Roberta Smith. Like Saltz, she’s an art critic for a random little magazine called The New York Times.
If you want to dive deep into this literary couple’s life, I suggest this Interview interview. TLDR: they fit pretty much every writer cliché in the book; art and deadlines rule their life; they both think the other is a better writer—which is probably the only way a writer couple can stay together, anyway. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely jealous of their couple vibe.
3) Marie-Florence Gros and Cyril Delettre – gallerists
In 2015, two years after the first Art Basel Hong Kong, this arty French collector couple opened one of city’s first photography galleries, La Galerie. But that wasn’t their first arty venture together—Gros and Delettre have also worked together on text and photography exhibitions and short films. Appropriately, their gallery’s about page starts with “When two artists’ minds meet…”
4) Yehuda and Maya Devir – comic artists
This married Israeli couple is a case study in art couple goals. The bio on their website is all the evidence you need: Maya thinks Yehuda “makes the ants look lazy,” and Yehuda, not to be one-upped, calls Maya… wait for it… a “goddess in a form of a woman who spreads Joy wherever she goes.” That’s right, friends, capital letter Joy! Let this be our new collective relationship standard—remember that next time you’re about to reply to a booty call from a sub-par art bro.
Their collaborative web comic, One of Those Days, chronicles their couple adventures. The latest adventure? A new addition to the fam! And yes, the baby already has 72K followers.
5) Anne Bourgeois-Vignon and Nick Chapin – digital curator and Frieze publisher
If you’ve heard of Anne Bourgeois-Vignon, you’re not alone—girlfriend has 35.4K followers and an even more impressive resume. She launched the digital division of Magnum Photos and is now the executive editor at The Culture Trip. And while her mans might not be quite as social media famous, he’s got no fewer arty notches on his belt.
After sharpening his skills at VICE, Chapin took over as Director of Publishing for Frieze. And, we might add, his feed takes the grungy, art student, zoomed-in-square aesthetic to new heights. Well done, Nick, and good choice, Anne. We have very little insider scoop on the relationship, but we officially bless this aesthetically pleasing union.
6) Duro Olowu and Thelma Golden – designer and curator
When the paper of record calls you the anti-power couple, what do you do?
In Olowu and Golden’s case, the answer is a puzzling “nothing.” With the looks and street cred to be the arty Obamas—Olowu has dressed Michelle Obama and Solange, Golden is the chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem—they choose to hide from the spotlight. No interviews, no magazine photoshoots.
Kim Hastreiter, co-editor of Paper Magazine, who introduced the couple, put it this way: “Thelma is a strong woman, and Duro loves that about her. They’re not attached at the hip. They work like crazy, and they’re really passionate about what they do, and respect each other’s careers and love each other. They don’t just go to parties and pose for things.” In a world of Kardashians and influencers, a little privacy is refreshing.
7) Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani – collectors
The average person’s knowledge about the art scene in Bangladesh could fit on an index card, but Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani are working to change that. In 2011, the collector couple set up the Samdani Art Foundation to support artist grants and residencies and bankroll local exhibitions. The next year, they launched the Dhaka Art Summit, which put Bangladesh on the art world map.
Instead of resting on their laurels, this unstoppable art world power couple forged ahead with a new project: Samdani Art Foundation in Srihatta, Bangladesh. A sculpture park, exhibition space, residency and education center all rolled up in one post-industrial, minimalist construction in Mars Red, the Samdani Art Foundation is set to open this year.
8) Ilya and Emilia Kabakov – artists
Children’s illustrator-turned-dissident Ilya Kabakov and his wife, Emilia, are famous around the world for satirical Soviet-era installations. Before they met and married, both Ilya and Emilia had well-established careers in the arts.
He was an illustrator and conceptual artist; she was a curator and art dealer. Could I make it any more obvious? He had a solo show; she moved to New York—what more can I say? “Sk8r Boi” aside, the Kabakovs have collaborated on all their work since they met in 1989, and their joint efforts have taken them to some pretty high places: the MoMA, the State Hermitage Museum, and the Venice Bienniale (1993). Strong case for teamwork making the dream work, don’t you think?
9) Julia Chiang and Brian Donnelly (aka KAWS) – artists
Love him or hate him, you certainly know KAWS. Loud and in your face, his work is impossible to escape, especially since he’s collaborated with everyone from Disney to Kanye. Less in your face is his wife, fellow artist Julia Chiang.
Like her husband, Chiang collaborates across industries in her practice; she’s teamed up with some pretty impressive clients, like the Standard and colette. Like KAWS, her work serves up a heavy dose of pop and kitsch: “Love Always,” “Forever and Longer,” “Sincerely Yours” and “Hugs and Kisses” are a few of the messages her ring pop wall installations impart. Yes, you read that right: Chiang’s mediums of choice include ring pops and fresh flowers. I think it’s safe to say that her relationship with Donnelly is doing pretty well.
10) Gilbert and George – artists
Gilbert and George might be the most recognizable art couple of our day. They met in the ‘60s while studying sculpture at St. Martin’s and bonded when only George could understand the Italian Gilbert’s English. Ah, the language barrier—the start of every great love story.
Unlike other artist couples – take John Currin and Rachel Feinstein – they go one step further than just using each other as inspiration. Over their five decades together and counting, Gilbert and George have been transforming their relationship into a work of art over and over again, starting with their iconic self-portrait, George the Cunt and Gilbert the Shit (1969). If you don’t already love them for their quirky suits, you gotta love them for their self-deprecating attitude.
Text by Katya Lopatko
Images via W Magazine, Interview Magazine, @polobourieau, @jude_devir, Standard, The New York Times, The National, Ein Bild für BILD, The Art Gorgeous.