Former studio assistants for Tom Sachs have alleged that the workplace environment created by the artist was “destabilizing and scary,” Curbed reported in an exposé published on Monday.
Curbed said that it spoke with over a dozen former employees, almost all of whom requested anonymity due to nondisclosure agreements or fear of retaliation.
The former assistants alleged that Sachs threw objects or screamed at employees, labeled a storage room “the rape room” (and then later changed it to “the consent room”), dispensed gifts of different values to, in Curbed‘s words, “demonstrate one’s standing” in the studio, and routinely made comments about employees’ appearance and sex life. In addition, multiple former assistants said Sachs called them “autistic,” “retarded”, or “bitch,” among other names.
The only named former studio assistant, Owen Zoyt, told Curbed that he dropped out of college in 2021 to join the studio and spoke positively of its “tightly knit” and “fast-paced environment.”
One employee told Curbed, “It’s almost as if he goes out of his way to sow discomfort and pawns it off as if he’s a genius. It’s like a ruse. So many people out there know that he’s cruel, but the art world is tiny and no one gives a shit.”
Sachs declined to be interviewed for the story and, in a statement to Curbed, a spokesperson for the studio “denied almost all of the allegations,” and said the behavior described by Curbed‘s sources was “not in line with the values of our studio.”
Curbed‘s exposé comes just weeks after an anonymous art world couple’s job listing for an assistant went viral after the New York Times reported on the egregious list of responsibilities.
Not long after the article was published, Artnet News speculated that the couple in question was none other than Tom Sachs and wife Sarah Hoover, a former Gagosian director. Curbed added to that speculation, with former assistants telling the publication that the job listing’s references to “systems” pointed towards Sachs, who is apparently known for the eccentric and firmly held rules that dictate the people who work for him in his household and studio.
Some of these rules have been released by Sachs himself, in a video entitled 10 Bullets. The video shows Sachs’ studio, taped with labels and rules, from the reasonable request to put dishes away to “Always be knolling” (arranging objects at 90 degree angles). These mildly controlling, but basically benign studio rules were just the tip of the iceberg, according to Curbed.
Tom Sachs’ studio did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for his gallery, Sperone Westwater, declined to comment on whether the allegations would affect their relationship with the artist.