The Artsy Questionnaire: Venture Capitalist & Tech-Wiz Chris Paik

Chris Paik is a name to know in the NYC tech world—a partner at Thrive Capital, he’s been hugely influential in shaping the startup scene here in the city, an integral part in the VC firm’s extensive portfolio*. He’s a Harvard grad and frequenter of articles in the “20 Under 25” vein, and we always suspected Paik would have interesting things to say about art and technology. Fortunately he gave us the opportunity to pick his brain. [*DISCLAIMER: which includes Artsy.]

Artsy: Can you give us a tweet-length bio?

Chris Paik: Bay Area born and raised. Fell in love with New York City. Technology runs in my blood. Top 1% nerdy.

Artsy: You’ve achieved a lot already at a very young age. Are there any secrets to your success?

CP: I think our generation was raised to be very risk-averse. Everyone asks you when you’re young, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, like you’re supposed to know, like you’re supposed to have this master plan and these steps that you’re going to follow. I think if there’s one thing that I’ve told my friends and everyone that I’ve interacted with and potentially given advice to, it’s “follow your heart; do what you want to do; things are going to work out.” As long as you can scrape together stuff, do what you love, because in the same amount of time doing something you love doing, you’ll travel way farther in your career than doing something that you even feel okay about. That makes a big difference—you can always change careers, move horizontally on the ladder. I think people don’t understand the opportunity cost of time, especially when you’re young, so you need to do what you’re passionate about.

Artsy: Either at Thrive or outside of it, are there any projects that you’re working on right now that you’re particularly excited about?

CP: Pretty much everything that I do revolves around Thrive and our portfolio. Although I am adopting a dog for a week next week! I’ve always wanted a pet and never had one.

Artsy: Do you have favorite people to follow on social media?

CP: My friends are my favorite people that I follow. I’m not super interested in celebrities—I think social media is a great channel to stay in touch with your friends.

Artsy: Do you have favorite publications?

CP: I spend a lot of time on reddit and HackerNews. Probably way too much time. Those two outlets are where I consume most of my news.

Artsy: What kind of art do you find yourself drawn to?

CP: It’s a few things. I like really physical art, like sculptures and installations; lighting and furniture are also a really beautiful type of art. I also like conceptual art, art that’s driven very strongly by an underlying philosophy.

Artsy: Who are some of your favorite artists?

CP: I really like Sol LeWitt. I like Richard Serra and Dan Graham. I like Andreas Gursky and Gregory Crewdson. And then, not contemporary, but I think my favorite pseudo-classical artist is Magritte.

Artsy: Do you own any art?

CP: I do! As of recently. My girlfriend got me a number of Sol LeWitt prints, and I still need to get them framed. They’re beautiful. I’m really excited to have actual art.

Artsy: Do you have a favorite museum?

CP: I don’t know whether it’s just because I went recently, but probably DIA: Beacon. They have an incredible representation of some of my favorite artists. Really really awesome. But actually, now that I think about it, my favorite museum might be the Walker Art Museum. It’s like this oasis of art in the middle of the country, and the curation is just so thoughtful; their sculpture garden is really well curated as well—it might be better than their collection.

Artsy: What do you think the role of technology in the art world is?

CP: I think the role of technology is to make art more accessible. I know that’s a total tee-up for Artsy, but I think that technology fundamentally reduces friction for people to connect, and allows greater opportunity for a larger percentage of people. Making art more accessible is huge—the way that I learned about art was by taking elective classes, and I would have loved some sort of resource where I could just get lost, and spiral out into a movement—it’s like the same sort of effect you get on Wikipedia. The transactional, market element of art aside, I think the most interesting intersection of the two is making the discovery and learning more accessible.

Artsy: We think a lot about design, too, here at Artsy. Are there any designers that you especially like?

CP: I’m very fond of furniture designers, because I think it’s the highest form of functional art. So the Eameses, George Nelson, pretty much all of the designers that DWR [Design Within Reach] has appropriated. In a parallel life, I would have loved to start a design house. In terms of fashion designers, I think Hedi Slimane is the man; I think he’s revolutionized menswear. I also really like Margiela—that sort of tongue-in-cheek essence of his line.

Artsy: What to you is the key to good design?

CP: Brevity.

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