You may know him as the smile-cracking judge on Bravo’s Work of Art, but Bill Powers doesn’t merely do the show for shits and gigs. “My mission has always been to bring more people into the art world. I want to make everyone an elitist,” he explained, while touring the NADA show, one of Art Basel’s satellite fairs. Powers has set up shop at this visual carnival, which boasts an alternative assembly of galleries dealing with emerging contemporary art to showcase Exhibition A, his members-only website that sells exclusive editions of artwork by top contemporary artists.
“Though we did a pop-up shop with Colette this fall, Exhibition A has an online presence, so it is nice to let people see the prints in person,” Powers explained as he shook hands with just about everyone, while spreading the word he already sold out of Nate Lowman’s print. It’s no surprise that Powers seems like the most popular kid on campus. The former BlackBook editor morphed into an artsy tour de force of sorts, thanks largely to his Half Gallery, whose artist roster includes Leo Fitzpatrick, Duncan Hannah, and most recently, Terry Richardson.
Powers’ often snarky yet on-point judging style in Work of Art only adds to his appeal, but don’t be fooled: Even though he runs in the ‘holier then thou’ circles (Powers was one of few invited to Lowman’s installation at Alex Rodriguez’s McMansion last night), the gallerist still manages to project that populist, anti-establishment vibe he claims attracted him to NADA in the first place.
“People see some kind of an artificial barrier in the art world. But look at me. I have no formal training in the contemporary art world. I just became interested, I started going to galleries, and I started reading up on art. Anyone can do that.”