Hedge Funder’s Merger of Aesthetics, Math

Art and mathematics may seem worlds apart, but to study forms, lines, and shapes is also an education in balance, precision, and geometry.


Harmony between the aesthetic and the abacus goes on display this week in New York at a show of former hedge fund manager Nelson Saiers’ art. Saiers left his perch in 2014 as a star quant to dedicate time to math-based art, and his show targets the chaos inherent in financial markets. Lessons gleaned from trading are ubiquitous themes in his paintings and sculpture. At times, he converts his money-making equations into splashes of Braille, inserting brooding commentaries straight onto canvas. In one painting, he deploys his trading algorithms to conjecture what might have happened to the CBOE Volatility Index—the so-called fear gauge—after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914.


In another piece, Saiers juxtaposes a graffiti-covered Volkswagen Beetle with an apple to symbolize a Great Recession oddity: a frenzied 2008 short-squeeze that elevated shares so violently that the German auto maker briefly became the largest company in the world.


Volatility and risk remain watchwords for Saiers, 41, a derivatives trader who built an impressive track record at Saiers Capital. “If you’re serious about trading, you need to study history and get a taste for how bad it can be when the worst-case-scenario happens,” he says. The show begins a four-week run at the HG Contemporary Gallery in Chelsea on April 7.