jason vass 59
gallerist, los angeles
The son of a painter and a successful fashion designer, Jason Vass was accustomed to the itinerant artist’s lifestyle as a child and all the good and bad that came with it. He himself has spent the majority of life in the art world, opening his first gallery in New York in 1984 and most recently serving as an art dealer to private clients.
Until he decided, at the age of 61, to open a new gallery—in LA’s upwardly trending downtown—when most would start winding life down. Seriously, who would do that?
“Maybe they’re unhinged, maybe they’re masochistic, maybe they’re troubled,” he told me, laughing. “I know you have an ageist slant, but, to me, 61 isn’t terribly old … [I] feel I have something to contribute, so that might be one of the motivations: you want to bring art that hasn’t been seen, you have an eye, and you know you can bring something to the art world that’s not being paid attention to now.”
His artist roster ranges from a 25-year-old to a 77-year-old artist, and also includes Doug Tausik-Ryder (profiled on agei.st previously). Guided by his passion, the work is both a grind and incredibly satisfying as he tries to stay ahead of the curve. After all, galleries typically operate in the vanguard of the art world, where they can dictate trends and pricing.
“Age and wisdom can be an advantage,” he says. “We have a lot of young gallerists, but we also have older gallerists that are still pretty hip, because they have all the wisdom and the knowledge and can see the future as well.”
The basis for that knowledge is in knowing how to value interactions, he says. Every one, to him, is an opportunity to share—whether that’s on his practically top secret radio show on the artist-driven LA network KCHUNG, or with the interns and younger artists he comes across.
“Working with young people, for me, is dynamic and fabulous,” he says. “Because they are paying attention to things I’m not and I’m hoping I can share with them in my ‘elderly way’, haha, things that escaped their attention or their education.”
He doesn’t have a “sell-by” date, because his work and passion are inextricably linked. “Work keeps you going,” he says. “I think very often people in the art world can work very late into their lives and still be very capable … and I hope to be one of those.”