Help Jerry Saltz Build an Art Family Tree

Artists working for other artists is all about knowing, learning, unlearning, initiating long-term artistic dialogues, making connections, creating covens, and getting temporary shelter from the storm. These mentorships and collaborations end up helping shape art and, especially in the U.S., they set up a crucial chain that enriches the art world; many of these young artists end up teaching in art schools themselves (unlike, say, the U.K., where most of the YBAs retreated into their own studios and/or material success). This percolates into real change.

Entirely on the suggestion of excellent writer Jim Lewis, I want to make a map of the Art World Family Tree, one that provides a complete picture of the many artists who have worked for another. I’ve assembled a quick unverified list of connections I’ve heard of, which you can see below. But I need your help. Please add any more that you can think of in the comments, and correct any mistaken connections I’ve made. Two quick rules for the list:

1. At least one of the names in each paring should have a modicum of recognition.
2. Please, only artists who worked for other artists, not artists who worked for galleries, dealers who worked for other dealers, or artists who worked at museums — or DIA.

I want this to result in a large, graphic Family Tree. (Maybe we’ll ask all artists who like charts and systems to design this; William Powhida, Danica Phelps, Ward Shelley, Jim Torok, Mike Rottenberg, Lane Twitchell, Sean Landers, Adrian Piper, Raymond Pettibon, Douglas Gordon, Barry McGee, Fiona Banner, Christopher Knowles, Julie Mehretu, Benjamin Edwards, Loren Monk, etc. Where are Alfred Jenson, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Lombardi when you need them? Sarah Sze and B. Wurtz can construct the thing. Liam Gillick can make it not make any sense but eloquently and with style. On Kawara will tally it all up.)

Here is my first stab at a list. I look forward to reading your additions (and corrections) below so I can get this project started.

Carroll Dunham worked for Dorothea Rockburne
Barnaby Furness worked for Carroll Dunham
Christopher Wool worked for Joel Shapiro
Josh Smith worked for Christopher Wool
Annette Lemieux worked for David Salle
Jacob Kassay worked for Josh Smith
Jackie Saccoccio worked for Christopher Wool
Alexander Ross worked for Julian Lethbridge
Sarah Morris worked for Jeff Koons
Jennifer Rubell worked for Koons
Tony Matelli worked for Koons
Carl Fudge worked for David Reed
Matthew Weinstein worked for Ross Bleckner
Darren Bader worked for Urs Fischer
Robb Pruitt worked for Richard Artschwager
Daphne Fitzpatrick worked for Robert Gober
Robert Gober worked for Jennifer Bartlett
Banks Violette worked for Robert Gober
Margaret Lee worked for Cindy Sherman
Rirkrit Tiravanija worked for Gretchen Bender
Udomsak Krisanamis worked for Rirkrit Tiravanija
Brice Marden worked for Robert Rauschenberg
Dorothea Rockburne worked for Robert Rauschenberg
Matt Magee worked for Robert Rauschenberg
Elizabeth Peyton worked for Ronald Jones
Haroon Mirza worked for Jeremy Deller
Matt Keegan worked for Elizabeth Peyton
Gabriel Orozco worked for Antony Gormley
Alexis Rockman worked for Ross Bleckner
Mark Handforth worked for Martin Kippenberger
Jutta Koether worked for Martin Kippenberger
Susan Jennings worked for Cindy Sherman
Ronnie Cutrone worked for Andy Warhol
George Condo worked for Andy Warhol
Elyn Zimmerman worked for James Turrell
Elyn Zimmerman worked for Robert Irwin
Rick Prol worked for Jean-Michel Basquiat
Keith Edmier worked for Matthew Barney
Massimiliano Gioni worked for Maurizio Cattelan
Lisa Ruyter worked for Marilyn Minter
Dave Muller worked for Mike Kelley
Collier Schorr worked for Richard Prince
Josephine Meckseper worked for Laurie Simmons
Laura Stein worked for John Baldessari
Jonas Wood worked for Laura Owens
Jonas Wood worked for Matt Johnson
Sally Ross worked for David Reed
Carl D’Alvia worked for Sean Scully
Huma Bhabha worked for Meyer Vaisman
Jason Fox worked for Vija Celmins
Jacob Kassay worked for Ann Craven and Josh Smith
Wayne Gonzales worked for Peter Halley
Ben Noam worked for Julie Mehretu
Lisa Ruyter worked for Mary Heilmann
Banks Violette worked for Robert Gober
Robert Melee worked for Marilyn Minter
Justine Kurland worked for Gregory Crewdson
Lisa Anne Auerbach worked for Paul McCarthy
Jennifer Bornstein worked for Sophie Calle
Jennifer Bornstein worked for Mike Kelley
Kenny Goldsmith worked for Allan McCollum
Ashley Bickerton worked for Jack Goldstein
Mike Ballou worked for Marilyn Minter
Matt Keegan worked for John Miller
Nicole Eisenman worked for David Humphrey
Inka Essenhigh worked for Gary Stephan
Merlin Carpenter worked for Martin Kippenberger
Isca Greenfield-Sanders worked for Cecily Brown
Corin Hewitt worked for Matthew Barney
Jessica Jackson Hutchins worked for Lawrence Weiner
Jessica Jackson Hutchins worked for Joan Jonas

About the author

Jerry Saltz is the Senior Art Critic for New York Magazine. Formerly the senior art critic for The Village Voice, Saltz has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism three times. He served as a judge in the 2010 Bravo series Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.


  1. Joyce Dade says:

    NEPOTSM from start to finish.

  2. Ploppi says:

    Damien Hirst worked for Charles saatchi.

    Or is that an urban legend ?

  3. Jerry Saltz says:

    Come on artists. Set aside the cynism for a minute; please list artists who worked for other artists.
    Thank you,
    Jerry Saltz

  4. Ploppi says:

    I have only heard of three people in Jerry’s list and two of them I would not call artists.

    One has enough money to make huge copies in metal of plastic novelties and employs people to make them. Disney World comes to mind.

    The other makes photos and regarding the nepotism quote above.

    I don’t think it is nepotism but that people sometimes have to kiss ass to get themselves noticed by the right movers and shakers in the art world.

    • Jerry Saltz says:

      Dear Mr. or Ms. Ploppi;
      Thank you for your comments.
      They seem cynical to me; an artist working for another is “kiss ass?”
      Regardless, and I say this in all honesty: If it is really true that you “have only heard of three people in Jerry’s list and two of them I would not call artists;” I would say two things:
      1. You really need to learn a lot. That sentence implies that you know next to nothing about contemporary art, and yet make these sweeping attacks on it. (Which is fine, if that’s how you roll your game).

      In any event, Mr/Ms. Ploppi: I would like you to answer two very simple quetions:
      1. I would love to know the two artists on my list who you do not consider to be artists.
      2. Please list ten artists who have emerged since 1991 who you consider to be very good contemporary artists. (Emerged post 1991.).
      Thank you for your comments.
      Jerry Saltz

  5. Dear Ploppi,
    (p.s to Jerry)

    Though I also haven’t heard of most of the artists listed (I know about 16 of them – and most of those were in the employer column), you have to understand the inherent difficulty in making a statement such as “this artists is known”. This is a subjective judgement which might be absolutely true in some circles and absolutely false in others. Having worked for Jeff Koons myself, and spent years visiting the 500+ galleries in Chelsea alone (not to mention the rest of NYC), sifted through the two vast floors of the brand name kitsch market that is Art Basel (not to mention all the other fairs and Biennales), and at least a decade of reading all the major art magazines and NYTimes reviews…. I must say that my limited experience has already lead me to understand that there are so many different niche segments of the art world that nobody can know every “relevant” artist. And many of these younger artists haven’t gotten much press yet.

    I’m assuming that Jerry is giving the best list of emerging and mid-career artists that one can, given the huge difficulties in such an endeavor. Further, being only one non-telepathic individual, I know it’s incredibly difficult to make an unbiased l assessment of how broadly any given artist’s exposure may truly extend.

    To Jerry,

    With that in mind, I would like to play ball and answer the challenge you’ve given our anally fixated friend. Of course, my niche is figurative painting, so I’ll stick with my strengths, and hopefully we can all discover some heretofore underexposed talent. If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will soon.

    Ali Banisadr
    Martin Wittfooth
    Nic Rad
    Jenny Saville (obligatory)
    Brad Kunkle
    Kris Lewis
    Gabriella Delloso
    Adam Miller – worked for both Kostabi and Koons.
    Roberto Ferri
    Nicola Verlato

    (Damn! John Currin just missed the cut-off!)

    Critical, but enjoying the articles,

  6. TREADWELL says:

    on convention: you can serve dinner by dumping the meal on the table, but, generally, people prefer it served on a plate. The food will taste no different.

    the artworld is way more(or less) than a playground of ideas- probably legitimizing an interest in something like an “Artist’s” assistants…henry ford be damned!(?)

    {Soul: (most immediately) where delivery meets expectation}


  7. I am going to add a different slant to the artist family tree. Right now the focus is narrow and limited by the focus of the listed artists. There are artists that have studied for many years with other artists and not only under the rubric of working for them. I have been part of what is the oldest lineage of direct learning though this lineage is discredited with the present contemporary art world…nevertheless though I received my MFA in 2007 I spent two years outside of the contemporary art world just to learn the ‘old way of seeing’. This is the Boston Painter’s heritage which is as follows and you can document it. I will list myself since I am part of it: Jacques-Louis David taught Jean-Leon Gerome who in turn taught William Paxton who taught RH Ives Gammell who taught Paul Ingbretson who taught me. I don’t paint in their style most of the time but it is a skill I value as I navigate the world of art and it gives me the ability to do whatever I wish depending on what I am doing conceptually. So how about adding other long lineages of artists. True I am not famous but I am the real thing nonetheless.

  8. Speaking of lineages in general, here’s an interesting one:

    Odd Nerdrum studied with Joseph Beuys. I even have a photograph of them together.

  9. Jerryberryitskerri says:

    Kj worked for blondie
    Blondie worked for smokee Matisse
    Smokee Matisse worked for Lou Lou
    Loulou worked for bb
    Bb worked for lorence
    Lorence worked for jai
    Jai worked for justice for animals international
    Justice for animals worked for ‘stop climate change ”
    Stop climate change worked for clean energy now
    ‘Clean energy now’ worked for jai
    Jai worked for love

  10. mrgherita says:


  11. Project M says:

    What a fun but tough project you have. Are you going to add people who are in collaboration with each other as apposed to working for someone else? I’ve always liked Tim and Sue, and they worked for Gilbert and George.

  12. Joshua Elias says:

    Joshua Elias worked for George Herms
    Joshua Elias worked for Laddie John Dill

    • Ranga says:

      This is a real earie video, full of contrasts exenpssirg very stong feelings. What I wander though is the strength of the Daliesque ant imagery that has in the past been recognised as representing sibling rivalry.There is Grunewald, and many fine art historical references to the piece, That could equally be for the showing of Christs suffering and man’s suffering. Is this really telling about the authors of censorship, the fear of the other. The fear of rivalry. infact it must have been simply frightening to them, got under the skin, which is surely what the artists sought?Could the gallery show the piece as X rated certificate?

  13. Tedd says:

    I was wondering why Josh Smith was in 3 pavilions at Venice 2011 and was on the cover of ArtForum Summer 2011… he worked for Christopher Wool.

    And I was wondering why Jacob Kassay is selling auction prices around $250K… he worked for Josh Smith who worked for Christopher Wool.

    I love this list- it really illuminates career strategies and wealth flows.

  14. Tedd says:

    oh and Jerry, I’ve heard of over 88% of the list- so I’ve done my homework.

  15. michel lentz says:

    I am not sure if genealogy is still a concept working in post-history. First we had the dynastic genealogy of Royal houses and artists copying that, then we had the genealogy of goods and industrial products and artists copying that too. In posthistory however everybody can work for everybody. This is even a definition of postmodern ,,sharing culture”. I think, the fact that there are too many ,,emerging artists” nowadays makes it impossible (or absurd by its unavoidable omissions — of which most are completely invisible) to draw an ,,Art World Family Tree, one that provides a complete picture” of Art World.

  16. Sind das nun Künstler oder einfach nur Handlanger ?

    Now the artists are or simply only helpers ?

  17. I think in Germany can perhaps 7 per cent really from your art live

  18. john rula says:

    I work ALONE and am looking for some recognition so please look at my page and put me on your list of Artists to come ….thanks..peace


Leave a Comment