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Ingrid Sischy

Cover of Artforum, February 1988. Art by Lucas Samaras.

THE BEST IS NOT ENOUGH. Ingrid Sischy left us on July 24, a Friday, at around 2:10 in the morning. Ingrid would modestly say she was just a witness, but she was much more: the conductor of a massive global orchestra comprising painters, sculptors, writers, actors, directors, photographers, fashion designers, musicians, curators, and politicians. Everyone trusted her. She was trustworthy. She was attracted to talent. She recognized it and nurtured it, discovering young artists and rescuing realized artists, all of whom were equally entranced by her ability to get them and make their world more livable because she understood and saw beyond what people expected another person to see. Her clarity and uncanny directness comforted and encouraged so many to do better—to find what was best in themselves and to make demands on themselves to realize an excellence that she saw in them. Her goal was to bring a pitch of revolution and freedom to the concert. To groom and search for intimate details in those she loved and respected in order to help them achieve a more perfect chord, one that sat well with her vision of the world; one based on morality and truth and surprise and individuality, and without fear of rejection or fear of being misunderstood or fear of anything, for that matter. For Ingrid, the most important thing was to get it right and to make it the best it could be.

I once heard someone say to Ingrid, “I wonder where people like you were hatched.” To find out, we would have to go back to South Africa, to Benjamin and Claire Sischy: the most excellent of parents, who instilled in Ingrid the impulse to help others. Ben was an oncologist who performed a colon-cancer operation on a black man and was the first white doctor to be imprisoned without a writ of habeas corpus in South Africa. After his eight-month stint in prison he and Claire, a speech therapist, moved the Sischy family to Scotland and later to Rochester, New York, where he ran the radiation-oncology department at Highland Hospital for many years. Ingrid had courageous parents who encouraged and instilled in her the value of voice and the importance to fight for what’s right:

Ethics
Jobs
Editing
Crossing borders
Inventing new ways of seeing
Connecting the dots
Never compromising
Never losing sight of what’s right
Generosity and warmth

Ingrid was fun-loving, childlike, tough, indefatigable, devoted, loving, and perceptive, with a voracious appetite for everything. There wasn’t enough time, but she did so much, posing questions, helping others. What is it about Ingrid that made everyone want to be her friend and so many feel like she was their best friend? What touched everyone, what was the conduit, what did she offer, what did she have to say, what were her qualifications? She was an open window. Mediating the world, making it more understandable to the rest of us. There is so much more, but it is too soon to write it.

Julian Schnabel is an artist based in New York.