How ArtDrunk’s Gary Yeh and Taylor Zakarin Aim to Demystify the Art World
Portrait of Gary Yeh and Taylor Zakarin. Courtesy of ArtDrunk.
When Gary Yeh started an art-focused account on Instagram in 2015, he didn’t have major plans for it. He launched it on a whim while he was an undergraduate art history student at Duke University and gave it an amusing name: ArtDrunk.
“It was meant to be a cheeky handle—given that I was still in college at the time—playing off this idea of getting drunk off art rather than alcohol,” Yeh recalled recently. “Over time, it has developed this meaning of being so immersed in art that you do feel a bit drunk from it,” he added, nodding to the way one might feel oversaturated with visual information after visiting a big art fair.
Despite its playful beginnings, ArtDrunk quickly became a passion. Yeh started posting photos from galleries and museums he visited while studying abroad in Europe. And after he graduated and got a job in finance, art was still a constant: He devoted all of his spare time in New York to visiting galleries and museums; spent his breaks traveling to art fairs and shows; and started collecting. Soon, his pithy captions and vibrant images of art were attracting a growing following.
By 2018, the ArtDrunk account had 55,000 followers and became known for offering glimpses into stunning exhibitions and art fairs around the world. Its following has nearly doubled since then. And now, Yeh and his new business partner Taylor Zakarin want to build on the momentum. On April 1st, they’ll unveil ArtDrunk’s new digital platform, including a revamped newsletter, video content, and a new series of “City Guides”: curated lists of current exhibitions in New York, Seoul, and London. Ultimately, the spirit of ArtDrunk remains the same: making the art world more accessible through dazzling digital content.
With the new “City Guides,” Yeh and Zakarin see an opportunity in offering show recommendations. It’s easy to find art and museum shows online, but it’s often difficult or overwhelming to sift through countless images and exhibition listings to determine what is a must-see. Yeh and Zakarin are taking on this onerous task for their subscribers by combing through museum and gallery exhibition schedules, press releases, other art listing platforms, and social media.
“Comprehensive listings are excellent for those who know more about art and have the tools to navigate such a vast amount of information,” Zakarin said. “‘City Guides’ were created to be accessible to as wide an audience as possible; it is a resource that both a novice or a veteran gallery visitor could use. We do the work, you see the art.”
For each show, there’s also a breakdown of “why you should see it, why it’s important, and what you will see when you get there,” Zakarin explained. She noted that the idea is to build on the existing relationships and trust ArtDrunk has amassed via Instagram, and “share with our audience what we would see.”
Zakarin was also an art history major at Duke, and she initially met Yeh when the two students served on the university’s Nasher Museum of Art student advisory board. Zakarin was a few years older than Yeh, so they didn’t interact much while they were at school, but they reconnected years later when Zakarin was leading the art program at NorthPark Center, a luxury shopping complex in Dallas, Texas, that doubles as an art museum. The two met up in Dallas and quickly realized they shared a mutual desire “to create an accessible art world,” Zakarin recalled.
While that intention is not uncommon, what sets ArtDrunk apart is its focus on content that enables discovery. In addition to “City Guides,” ArtDrunk sends out a newsletter with artist and show recommendations, and produces videos featuring interviews with artists, activists, and celebrities. Some of the more recent videos feature artists Sharif Farrag, Jennifer Guidi, and Lee Kun-yong in the process of making their work. These glimpses into artists’ studios seek to lift the veil on aspects of artistic creation and forge connections between collectors and creators.
“When we create videos, we attract a much wider audience than what would normally exist for that artist,” Yeh said. “And the idea is that a portion of our viewers would later want to research that artist and learn more from there.” A video featuring the artist Ha Chong-hyun, for example, reached over 350,000 people and led to several thousand new Instagram followers for the artist within a couple weeks, Yeh said. ArtDrunk plans to introduce a new series called “Material Matters,” which will dig into the unique mediums artists use.
This focus on accessible art content is key to the ArtDrunk mission. “We want to bring people into the fold,” Zakarin said. “The art world is constantly gatekeeping. It is an exclusive world that is hard to break into, and it is difficult to understand. We want to share our access, information, and education.”
By amplifying their knowledge through creating and sharing content, Zakarin and Yeh hope to create a wider community of people who like to learn about and engage with art. Right now, the ArtDrunk team will primarily do this through their newly launched website and their Instagram page, but they eventually plan to host in-person events, including tours and meet-ups.
“Before the pandemic, I was traveling a lot. Every week I was in a different city going to fairs, exhibitions, and just experiencing things,” Yeh said. “And what I realized I really missed was the [communal nature of the art world]—I liked going to art fairs to meet the same people, to see the friends that I had made in the art industry, to experience culture, and to eat new food. I think that’s become a core part of what we want to promote with ArtDrunk: Art isn’t limited to just physical objects.”
Ultimately, Yeh and Zakarin aim to develop a sense of empathy and encourage connections through art. That ethos is reflected in a new online collection they’ve curated titled “Kindred Connections,” featuring the works of María Berrío, Cindy Ji Hye Kim, Maja Ruznic, Sônia Gomes, and Ragnar Kjartansson, among many others.
“Art represents and expresses the unique cultural backgrounds and individual experiences of every artist,” Yeh said. “At least from our personal experience in working with and learning from artists, we realize that we always find a connection, even if we come from radically different upbringings. It’s the essence of just relating to one another—human to human. Thus, by aiming to reach millions of people, we hope that this aspect of art will build stronger global communities that are more understanding of one another.”
The hope, Zakarin added, is for art to inspire people “to confront another perspective, another viewpoint.” And ArtDrunk seeks to inspire such experiences. “We genuinely believe that art can have this impact on people,” Zakarin said, “whether directly and knowingly, or by osmosis.”
Browse the collection ArtDrunk’s Picks: Kindred Connections.