In the past week, on various social media channels, it has emerged that the proprietor of Sellyoulater.com is a 26-year-old former art dealer and gallery owner named Carlos A. Rivera. Last week, Observer columnist Adam Lindemann spoke with Mr. Rivera and confirmed this. The Observer spoke briefly with Mr. Rivera this morning.
Mr. Rivera launched Sellyoulater on Feb. 8, and it was immediately greeted with skepticism (and some anger) in the art world for its practice of ranking young artists like stocks. (Most of these reactions were aired on social networks such as Instagram, which is precisely where Mr. Rivera was gathering a good deal of the information that powers Sellyoulater.) In the past few weeks, Mr. Rivera decided to rebrand his website as ArtRank. When he did this, he explained over the phone this morning from his Los Angeles home, there was a technical glitch and his personal information was revealed.
Before starting Sellyoulater, Mr. Rivera, who grew up in various South American countries (“My father is an oil man,” he told us), studied business and film at USC, and ran a succession of two art galleries in Los Angeles, beginning in 2009. The second of them, called Rivera & Rivera, was in the West Hollywood area. In December 2011, he shut down his gallery after a collector approached him about starting an art investment fund, which eventually became Sellyoulater.
In creating Sellyoulater, he sought to make an algorithm through which to analyze artists’ markets. He said he scanned some 20,000 artists’ CVs to get data points, and began plotting artists’ career trajectories against one another (Mark Flood plotted against Chris Ofili, for instance). He eventually distilled the CVs down to 150, and then, as he put it, “added Instagram to that.” Through Instagram, he said, he was able to see what prominent, trendsetting collectors like Dean Valentine and Anita Zabludowicz were putting on their walls—these collectors and others who collect young art tend to post images of their new purchases—and factor in that information.
Why start Sellyoulater? “We thought this is good time to do something around emerging art,” he said. “There are so many people who want to invest but don’t know how. We put up a list and tell them what we think they should be doing.” He and his colleagues, he said, came up with the name Sellyoulater—”a stupid name,” he now acknowledges—over coffee one day. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. A lot of people hated us”—particularly, he said, for the site’s “Purgatory” section.
Since being outed as the driving force behind Sellyoulater (now ArtRank), he said, he has had “lots of friend requests, and a little bit of hate mail.” He’s been contacted by numerous journalists, he said. When he launched the site, he said, “I didn’t expect it to have the virality it had.”
He said he is now involved with several “strategic partners” whose names he is not yet prepared to reveal, as well as prominent collectors. He and his strategic partners’ end goal is not with art, he said, seeming to echo the Amazon model that started out with books and then grew. “Our end goal,” he said, “is in the consumer space,” working with large brands like Nike. “The data set in the art world is small.”