Want become an art world insider but not sure where to start? Marlies Verhoeven and Daisy Peat might be able to help you. The duo are the co-founders of The Cultivist, a web-based members-only club that promises exclusive, expertly moderated access to museums, art fairs, and the inner workings of the art world – though some critics question the service’s ability to replace years of education and experience.
The concierge service turned private club is accepting 1,000 members in its first year of business. For Americans, the annual fee is $2,500; for residents of the U.K., £1,900 and for the rest of Europe, €2,700. For this price, you’ll enjoy free, front-of-the-line access to museums and galleries, VIP access to art fairs and private events, and even access to the CEOs’ personal network of art insiders who are ready to “deepen your relationship with art.”
While business seems to be going well for the duo, critics of the service wonder how it will affect an industry that is built on years of education, personal experience and subjective understanding. As one reporter at Hyperallergic notes, “contemporary art in particular is often rewarding in almost direct proportion to the effort exerted to unpack its various and serried meanings.” The Cultivist promises easy, instant access to crucial art fairs and a curated selection of well-known international museums. The argument here is that there is more enjoyment to be gleaned from spending years waiting to get into museums, visiting art fairs with the tourist crowd, and acquiring an individual sense of what art is and what it means, than there is in simply paying to have someone else explain it to you.
The company states that there are no restrictions on who can become a member, however the prohibitive fees and questionnaire required to apply may be interpreted as contrary to that assertion. What is true is that the Cultivist is funded on membership alone, meaning it receives no payouts from institutions in exchange for favoring them in its services. Applicants can rest assured that they will be privy to an unbiased, experienced view of the art world – even if it is someone else’s.