July 24, 2023
Spotlight on Diallo Simon-Ponte
Article by newcube
3 min. read
In this summer spotlight, we chat with Diallo Simon-Ponte, curator, Black Art supporter and Assistant to Director Antwaun Sargent at Gagosian. Diallo has a keen eye for talented artists and is primed to follow in the footsteps of one of the world’s most respected curators today.
Hi Diallo, great to reconnect with you. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to enter the art world?
I’m deeply grateful to have grown up with parents who understood the value of knowledge, so local artist’s artwork, African masks, and black literature adorned the walls and bookshelves of my childhood home. However, for much of my life my focus was always on playing professional soccer and it wasn’t until I was playing D1 at Fairfield University where I took an African American Art History course that changed my life. The class was taught by Professor Andrew Davenport who is a descendant of Sally Heming’s. He exposed me to a plethora of Black Artists and ideologies around the Black Arts that I quickly became deeply enamored with. It was then I felt called to explore these ideas for the rest of my life.
You work at Gagosian, can you tell us a little bit about your role and what your day to day is like?
Before I began at Gagosian I was an admirer of the curator, Antwaun Sargent and am fortunate to have now been working for him at the Gallery for close to two years now. My title is Assistant to the Director and he’s been incredibly welcoming in helping me expand that definition to broaden all I can gain from the role. Day to day at a Gallery like Gagosian is incredibly dynamic and can include the drafting of exhibition abstracts, compiling research on contemporary artists, sales strategy and outreach, managerial and scheduling duties, coordinating artist dinners and after parties, and handling artwork shipments are some of the tasks that remain consistent.
You also curate, what has been your most exciting experience/project and what are some of your upcoming projects?
At this time, I feel I’m in an intensely studious period where I’m learning a certain curatorial acumen from Antwaun and at the same time training my eye working at Gagosian so much of my energy is dedicated to learning. Earlier this year Antwaun brought me on to a project working with Helmut Lang at Hannah Traore Gallery where he commissioned a series of artists to respond to the notion of the Cowboy. He allowed for a fluid conversation around the selection of artists which included Turiya Adkins, American Artist, Awol Erizku, Devin B. Johnson, Justen Leroy, Daniel Obasi, and Quay Quinn Wolf.
Outside of the space of the gallery, a couple months ago I put together a film screening Dreams Are Colder Than Death by Arthur Jafa and followed it with a panel led conversation to encourage discourse around the geographic localities of expectation in the art world. I’m also really excited about an article I’ve written about the overlap in Chef, Nathanael Cox and Architect, Dominique Petit Frere’s artistic practice which is meant to come out this summer!
We first met you when you were curating Shantel Miller’s work in the Black Art Sessions exhibition Straight Lick. How do you find and curate artists? Do you have expertise or a focus in a particular movement or era?
My pairing with Shantel Miller for the Black Art Sessions was completely the work of Ebony Haynes who conceived and structured the entire project. I remember being so youthfully excited but also very ready to work with an artist as brilliant as Shantel. Working with Shantel was really seminal in how I feel my eye has grown to identify what I like about an artist. Before thinking about the work I focus on the mind of the maker. I usually am looking for a deep love for the technical, the proclivity for narrative, and the imagination for research. Also I don’t really frame it in my head as “searching” for artists but finding people I enjoy thinking with.
What advice do you have for other young people trying to enter the art world?
Relentlessly pursue your curiosity and read endlessly about the things you love.
Do you collect yourself at all? If you could own one dream artwork, what would it be?
I have a small collection of works by artists Rossana Romero, Lamar Robillard, Bakari Akinyele, Luke Austin, and Aaron Laserna to name a few.
If I could own any artwork it would probably be Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali or Blood by Barkley Hendricks.
As someone based in NY, how do you feel the city’s art scene has shifted over the years?
I’ve lived in NY only a couple years now and am still understanding how the city’s art scene is evolving but in the past year and half assisting on exhibitions of the likes of Rick Lowe, Tyler Mitchell, Amanda Williams, Awol Erizku, Cy Gavin, and Alexandria Smith at Gagosian I understand that these faces at this level of gallery is rarity. I deeply believe in and respect Antwaun Sargent’s vision.
Last question for you, from newcube’s artists, who would be your few favorite ones? And are there particular artworks you’d pick for your personal collection?