Matthew Israel

Power to help people understand the world in new ways.
Plus_Matthew Israel
Illustration by Jisoo Kwak

PLUS: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

Matthew Israel: I wish this were not true but I pick up my phone and check my email. Ideally, I would take some time to do breathwork and remind myself of all the things I am thankful for. But that doesn’t happen.


P: Where is your go-to place to eat and why?

MI: Right now? Probably my kitchen. It’s been the safest spot during COVID! But I am very ready to eat out more (when I am soon fully vaccinated).


P: What attracts you to New York? 

MI: The art community (and its size and diversity relative to other American cities). I dreamed of being a part of it as a kid and the attraction has still not worn off. 


P: What inspires you to do what you do every day?

MI: Writing. I love putting together words to describe and analyze art, artists, and art history—and more generally, it’s the way I best make sense of the world.


P: What do you hope people take away from your most recent book, A Year in the Art World? 

MI: One message I hope that A Year in the Art World gets across is a generosity of information. The book was written to help a general audience understand the scope and complexity of the contemporary art world and I aim, through most of my work, to find ways to make the contemporary art world feel more accessible.


P: In recent years, you have specialized in digital curation and content. How do you think digital media has changed the way we perceive art and the wider world?

MI: I think it has changed everything. But I don’t think we’ll understand the full extent of this change for many years. And it’s also almost impossible to gauge now as we are currently existing in a 99% digital art world.


P: How has the role of curators changed over time?

MI: In brief, historically curators were the custodians of the permanent collections of museums and public galleries, and I think to some extent this character was still present when I started being exposed to the art world. Yet in the last thirty years, things have changed dramatically. Art institutions have been looked to more and more to exhibit and collect new art, and so the best-known curators have become those who work with contemporary art and put on exhibitions of current work. Curators have also started to work in a broad range of settings, which I think describes my work at Artsy leading The Art Genome Project and now, curating contemporary art travel experiences at Artful.


P: What power does great art have in this current society?

MI: The power to help people understand the world in new ways.


P: What is one thing that you would like to see more in creative industries?

MI: An improvement in the way people treat each other.


P: Three things you are thankful for? 

MI: Every day I write the same thing in my Self Journal. I express gratefulness for my family’s health, my ability to write, and my ability to exercise.

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