The Fine Art Globe lost a family member today.
Our great writer, Ognjen Simic, has died by suicide, at age 54.
Ognjen was a research psychologist and polymath whose varied interests and tastes were reflected by the unusual gathering of crazy tchotchkes all over his apartment. A lover of art and a hand-roller of cigarettes, Ognjen embraced the Fine Art Globe from the moment he learned of its existence. He covered a variety of topics for our site, including the Hans Haacke retrospective at the New Museum, a brilliant analysis of “The Powerful Vernacular Art” of Hugo Boss prize-winner Simone Leigh, a hilarious look at the time Jake Gyllenhaal met Outsider Art (surely the first and maybe only time the word ‘ensorcelled’ made it into a headline) and many others.
Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.
Born in Croatia on February 20, 1965, Ognjen spent the last 20 years in Williamsburg. He presided over the stunning transformation of that Brooklyn neighborhood from gritty to posh with a bemusement befitting someone who’d seen his home country experience startling upheaval.
An adroit and all-consuming intellectual, Ognjen was not above trying to generate a few cheap clicks when the mission called for it. Told by his editor that the site could use a few more listicles, in January Ognjen dialed up “Top Ten Art Scandals and Controversies of 2018.” In a fashion typical of Ognjen, both the language and the obscurity of the items on the list were aimed at European graduate schools, but the charm and passion of this unusually knowledgeable writer could not be hidden.
This had been a very tough year for Ognjen. His only child, Stella Simic, was a freshman at Kenyon College who Ognjen encouraged to write in these pages, where she contributed meaningfully. A brilliant and sensitive writer, Stella died by suicide in May of this year.
Ognjen is survived by his live-in companion, Marianna Rosen, the editor of Fine Art Globe. And almost no one else, and that’s part of what makes this shocking tragedy even sadder. His mother, whom he cared for and tended to dutifully, survives in Croatia, where Ognjen traveled in Summer to inform her of Stella’s demise.
Earlier this summer, Ognjen and I spent hours smoking cigarettes and petting the stray cat that had taken over Marianna’s porch. A prolific conversationalist who normally talked almost as much as he smoked, that day Ognjen and I just sat in silence. He had been to my daughter’s bat mitzvah a month before Stella died and remarked on the pain of not knowing what’s truly in anybody’s heart — especially a teenage girl.
Less than a month ago, he accompanied Marianna to her son Dani’s bar mitzvah. He beamed as the young man recited his torah portion, taking pride in the efforts of a kid who was now living under his roof, once again supplying the apartment with teenage noise and laughter that had grown painfully absent.
At Dani’s bar mitzvah, my son and I were given an honor and we dedicated it to Stella. I locked eyes with Ognjen to let him know he was on my mind. That night, he danced and put on a brave face during the party in Brooklyn. Today, he’s no more.
Sea of Reeds Media will make a donation to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you or anyone you love is suffering, please call 1-800-273-8255.
Beautifully written piece on a shocking and tragic story. Thank you for helping me navigate this complex story, and the sensitivity and love you brought to it.
Very sad story!
I was Stella’s third grade teacher. She was a very special student whose intelligence was beyond her age. When I met, Ognjen, I immediately knew where Stella’s brightness came from. Getting to know them both was a gift. I remember Ognjen joining us for a class trip, his love for Stella was very present, he often said, “I just want her to always be happy!
May they both Rest In Peace.
I knew Ognjen and Stella. My family and I were shocked and saddened to hear of her tragic end in May. Last time I saw him was in August this year in Knin, Croatia. He was visibly consumed by grief for Stella but at the same time utterly preoccupied with care arrangements for his mother. I wished him all the best as he got on his bike and went to see her. I never saw him again…
Azra Hanna Agic
Ognjen and I met at University of Zagreb, where he taught psychometrics. Dashing, mysterious and beautiful in Heatcliffean way , he captivated many. His mentor, later professor Alija Kulenovic was his mentor. Alija, much of an outsider in Croatia, as Ognjen was in the days of ethnic cleansing and strife following disintegration of Yugoslavia – also died at age of 52. Ognjen – a tender soul…..
Azra Hanna Selak
Ognjen was always special. I remember him from our days at University of Zagreb. Consummate intellectual and at the time, fascinated with Tom Waits – I remember us cruising a few Zagreb jazz clubs in those dark days of war. May he rest in peace. May his beautiful, tender soul finally find some peace.
Cantor Riki Lippitz
Ken, this is a touching and evocative tribute. Thank you for bringing Ognjen‘s persona to life through your admiring and compassionate words.
May we all surround his beloved Marianna with the love and strength that she will need in the months ahead.
Today, at Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb, Croatia, my long-time childhood friend Ognjen Simic will be laid to rest. On that sad occasion another old friend Goran Knezevic will say last farewell, including a few words on my behalf:
“I came to know Ognjen in year 1975, when my family moved to our new hometown Knin in Croatia, it happened that we started fifth grade “V b” together in the same class…”
I know Ognjen since my childhood. He helped me when i came to US. He was one of the good people that you always carry with you and one day you will reach out about everything what we went through. I am saddened to see what happened, great mind and wonderful person is gone.
I went to elementary school with Stella. We didn’t talk much and didn’t keep in touch. But we were two people who have met in this lifetime.
Both her and her father’s passing is heartbreaking.
I hope they both find peace, together.