Former Assistants Accuse Tom Sachs of Running a Scary, “Cult-Like” Studio

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There is often a cult that circles around celebrity. Certainly that is the case with Tom Sachs, who for years has garnered a tribal following for his subversive installations, NASA-inspired sculptures, his decade-long partnership with Nike and, of course, the enigmatic studio practice he runs in New York City. Cult is a word that should not be used lightly here, however, as former studio workers have accused Sachs of operating an abusive and oftentimes violent practice.

First reported by Curbed, many former managers and assistants (many of which asked for anonymity, fearing retaliation) described a work environment where Sachs would verbally berate them and throw objects if angered — surprising revelations for those on the outside, as Sachs largely portrayed a charming, carefree and creative image with the intended accessibility of his NikeCraft General Purpose Shoe, the child-like curiosity surrounding his bricolage sculptures and his endless obsession with NASA and space travel.

These allegations add a new lens to his 2010 film, Ten Bullets, which was filmed by former studio member Van Neistat — the brother of Casey Neistat, who once worked for Sachs as well — and used as a biblical manifesto for his practice. Ten Bullets was even passed around Apple and Nike’s corporate headquarters. Within the film, prospective workers are trained to adhere to a strict set of codes and programs engineered to quell personal creativity and instill a military-like adherence. “This place is a cult, and I mean that in the scariest, most Manson-family kind of way, in that we’re totally committed to this way of life,” the artist previously said in an interview with GQ.

“He goes out of his way to sow discomfort and pawns it off as if he’s a genius.”

More than any single achievement, Sachs considers the studio as his greatest work of art. But the conditions fostered within have been described as scary and destabilizing, “almost as if he goes out of his way to sow discomfort and pawns it off as if he’s a genius,” according to one former manager. “It’s like a ruse. So many people out there know that he’s cruel, but the art world is tiny and no one gives a sh*t.”

Ten Bullets seems harmless and entertaining — carrying a funk-filled beat that will likely have you feeling inspired by the end of its 21-minute runtime. Sachs hands out several more studio manuals like this to his staff upon employment, many of which are far more detailed and demoralizing, such as a guideline to “Avoiding Things That Make Tom Mad,” or paying a $2 USD fine to a shrine called “Leatherface”, named after the serial killer from the popular horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, if mistakes are made. Sachs’ spokesperson has dismissed these manuals as jokes, but his staff thought anything but, with several employees revealing that they’d be called “autistic,” “retarded,” or “b*tch,” by Sachs when they failed to live up to his standards.

For an artist heavily tied to iconography, Sachs, who has described himself in the past as “proudly Jewish”, used to have a first aid kit in the kitchen that was deliberately manipulated to resemble a swastika, in an attempt “to subvert and reclaim this painful part of Jewish history.” Perhaps this was another joke to the artist, but as Curbed noted in the report, the artist frequently called his office the “Eagle’s Nest” (referring to Hitler’s Kehlsteinhaus) — leading one to think otherwise.

Tom Sachs Studio Culture Cult Allegations Curbed

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Gaslighting has been a constant tactic within his workplace, with a hierarchy system in place to both reward and condemn assistants to Sachs’ liking. Several women who previously worked at the studio also note how Sachs openly spoke about the porn he watches and the “type” of women that he’s into, even attending Zoom meetings with Nike in just his underwear. Even more shocking, the storage room in the basement was once called the “rape room” until he changed it to the “consent room” in 2016.

Sachs, like many cult-like figures before him, has been able to instill fear and adherence perhaps due to his unique position nestled firmly between the fine art world, sneaker culture and fashion. He made this notion clear to anyone working within the office that they were replaceable. “I don’t care if she dies. There’s a million of her and only one of me,” the artist once yelled after being displeased on a Zoom call.

Tom Sachs has denied nearly all the allegations towards him in the Curbed story. His studio also declined to comment for this article. Head to Curbed to read the full story.

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Source Credit:  Content and images by HYPEBEAST.  Read the original article -