Born in Canada and raised in England and the United States, Simon Watson is an independent curator, art advisor and cultural event marketing specialist based in New York and São Paulo. A thirty-year veteran of the cultural scene on three continents, Watson has advised art collecting programs in institutional settings and for private residences, as well as assisted more than a hundred major brands in creating unique outreach programs to new audiences.
Over the past three decades, Simon Watson has discovered art stars and brought them to the attention of new audiences. His area of curatorial expertise is in spotting emerging visual artists with outstanding potential, many of whom are now seen internationally in the blue chip category. Since 1985 every Whitney Biennial has included at least two artists whose careers he was instrumental in launching, including Lutz Bacher, Sue de Beer, Carroll Dunham, Nicole Eisenman, Tony Feher, Louise Fishman, Deborah Kass, Sherrie Levine, Marilyn Minter, Paul P., Jack Pierson, Richard Prince, Martha Rosler, Gary Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Mickalene Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley. These artists are now represented by some of the most established galleries in the world.
Watson has an ongoing interest in mixing artistic practices and introducing audiences to the pleasure of collaborations between artistic disciplines, whether in intimate cabaret settings for a few hundred people or in large music venues hosting many thousands. Beginning in 1993 Watson founded and directed New York City's Downtown Arts Festival, a multidisciplinary arts festival taking place in TriBeCa, SoHo and Chelsea. Annually the festival launched the art season in September with dozens of music concerts, dance performances, nightclub DJ events and spoken word performances in addition to commissioning special video installations and visual arts exhibitions throughout lower Manhattan. In its later years, directed by Craig Hensala and produced by Simon Watson, the festival became a premier presenter of international artists and annually received the support of governmental cultural agencies of Canada, France, Germany, Holland and Great Britain.
Crossing the U.S. constantly for three decades, Watson has acted as a curatorial bridge linking the New York and Los Angeles art scenes. He began working with Los Angeles artists in New York in 1985, when he premiered a performance video by legendary Los Angeles artist Mike Kelley. In the decade that followed, Watson created important first New York solo exhibitions for numerous Los Angeles artists, including Gary Simmons, Lutz Bacher, and Nayland Blake. And from east to west, Watson introduced leading New York emerging artists to the Los Angeles art scene, by creating first solo shows in leading Los Angeles galleries for Adam Pendleton, Chris Dorland, Kehinde Wiley, Keltie Ferris, Leo Villareal, Marc Handelman, and Paul P. In Los Angeles, Watson has made dozens of solo and group exhibitions with some of the city's leading artists: Amy Adler, Analia Saban, Aaron Curry, Brian Bress, Catherine Opie, Chris Vasell, Dave Muller, Elad Lassry, Jim Shaw, KAWS, Karl Haendel, Mario Ybarra Jr., Matt Johnson, Nathan Mabry, Robert Heinecken, Ry Rocklen, and Walead Beshty. In addition, Watson has made special projects working with the UCLA Hammer Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MoCA), and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); he co-curated an art event honoring Los Angeles living legend, the painter Ed Ruscha; and he has been a guest lecturer at all of the Los Angeles area’s art schools including CalArts, Otis College of Art, and UC Irvine.
With a home in São Paulo, Watson is passionate about Brazil's creative and cultural vibrancy and has found numerous avenues to present its contemporary art scene. Since 1994 when Watson in association with Marc Pottier presented Brazilian art star Tunga in his first North American solo exhibition, Watson has curated and written about numerous Brazilian artists including Lucas Arruda, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Laura Lima, Jarbas Lopes, Denise Milan, Paulo Nazareth, Nunca, osgemeos, Valeska Soares, and Thiago Rocha Pitta. In the 2014/2015 art season, he will be organizing solo Brazilian artist exhibitions in New York, London and Paris as well as more than a dozen exhibitions in São Paulo with North American artists. Watson is the USA contributing editor to Dasartes, the leading Portuguese language art magazine in Brazil and was recently appointed to the Editorial Board of Dasartes. He is the Arts Editor of XOP magazine, a travel publication aimed at cultivated Brazilians; and is a regular arts blogger for Huffington Post.