Photographic Portrait of Diego Cortez with Body Paint by Francesco Clemente, offered in the Modern Art & Design auction
A Catalyst of Ideas
"Diego was a catalyst in the literal sense of the word: something that precipitates or facilitates a change" (Raymond Foye, The Brooklyn Rail)
Diego Cortez (1946-2021), curator, filmmaker, writer, musician, and friend, was a cultural cornerstone of the New York City art scene in the 1970s and 80s. From the moment he entered the City, through his unique perspectives, ability to connect with people, and his passion for both the art and artist, Cortez was a conduit of the cultural curve. Among his accomplishments, Cortez is credited with launching the monumental career of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
In 1981 Cortez curated the influential exhibition, New York/New Wave at MoMA PS1 in Queens. This massive exhibition featuring over 100 artists was maximalist in approach, with art hung from floor to ceiling. From alternative to established artist, graffiti art to photography, art and artists were on display shoulder to shoulder. Many of the artists in the exhibition – Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose work premiered at New York/New Wave, along with Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Fab 5 Freddy, and Robert Mapplethorpe – have since become household names.
Curt Hoppe (American, b. 1950), Arturo Vega



“Diego arrived in New York in the dawn of punk and remained true to that sensibility all of his life.” (Raymond Foye, The Brooklyn Rail)
Cortez challenged the status quo of the art world. He highlighted, elevated, and explored art with content and context that resonated with him. From fine art to graffiti- there was no difference. His progressive perspective on art inspired and provided a stage for generations of artists and creatives.

“…there are always great artists, great minds, and great ideas. New ideas are what give you hope.” (Diego Cortez, ArtForum)
John Isiah Walton (American, b. 1985), St. Claude
Throughout his life, Cortez continued to work as an art agent and curator. He resided in multiple cities around the world and acquired a vast collection of art along the way. He finally settled in North Carolina where he co-directed the gallery Partobject with his sister, Kathy Hudson. Congruent with his professional work, Cortez’s curation of his private collection is broad in scope and multifaceted in nature, emphasizing “great artists, minds, and ideas.”

Explore Cortez’s personal collection in the Modern Art & Design Auction.




Modern Art & Design
November 18th, 10:00am EST