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.
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.