Desire is not the primitive instinct for mere possession. What keeps the primitiveness at bay is discernment, the “eye,” the ability to determine what it is that one must possess. It is no wonder then, that the practice of art collecting (at least as the collectors tell it) is fraught not just with the frenzy of the bidding floor at auction or the anxiety produced by not being invited to the exhibition preview, but with a quiet unease all its own.The relationship between Richard Nickel, a photographer born and raised on Chicago’s West Side, and Miyoko Ito, an American-born Japanese painter still seems, years after their respective deaths, fraught with this unease. The life of the work that survived it, perhaps even more so.
Richard and Miyoko met in the last days of 1970, introduced by a close mutual friend, the architect John Vinci. Richard’s primary vocation was as an architectural photographer, retained by firms throughout Chicago to document works-in-progress and prospective buildings sites, while on his own time documenting the steady demise of the work of famed American architect Louis Sullivan. Miyoko, meanwhile, was a painter whose life had taken her from Berkeley to Yokohama to Chicago, with a stint in an internment camp and a hasty marriage in between. She met Vinci when she was invited to hang a small series of her abstractions in the conference rooms of the architecture firm at which he was then employed, Brenner Danforth Rockwell. The photographer, artist, and architect ran in separate but heavily intersecting social circles, consorting with a number of the same clients, colleagues, and friends.
The majority of the surviving correspondence between Richard and Miyoko dates from the Spring of 1971. A topic of frequent discussion was the literary works of French author Marguerite Duras. This dialogue begins with a letter from Miyoko which says:
“I picked up a Marguerite Duras, about a murderess who is so united as one with her garden. I cannot get over how the passages are--they turned me to my own aloneness as a child in my grandmother’s kitchen garden in Japan. How I used to lay flat and still on the ground, feeling my cheek pressing against the comforting earth as if it was my only protection.”
In response, Richard made Xerox copies of pages 26 and 27 of Duras’ The Square, which contain a thorough description of a public garden containing a zoo by the sea, and an encounter both intimate and existential that takes place therein at dusk. He sent them to Miyoko, who in turn responded:
“Thanks, Rich, for the marvelous pages. I am rereading the story of The Square. As for my affinity with the other Duras garden, I cannot alas recall the title(1). Had passed on the Penguin paperback, wish I had it back, now that 1 you have taken once again into feeling the Duras way.”
It is this affinity for Duras’ beloved seaside gardens which lead to an invitation on Richard’s part to accompany him sailing, written on the back of a photograph of his boat moored in Burnham Harbor. He was an amateur sailor, and at the time of the invitation, had recently acquired his second sailboat.
The first had been a small wooden craft known alternately as Vato (the name it bore when Richard purchased it) and--though it was never officially rechristened--as Adrienne, in honor of his ex-wife. The new boat was a larger fiberglass vessel called Garden City. Richard was notorious among friends for his stringent policies on board, which began with the issuance of a set of “boat rules” which included a dress code, by mail, in the days following an invitation to come sailing. He was equally notorious for his guileless bewilderment at the fact he was often unable to find sailing companions. Even Miyoko initially declined, writing, “To the portrait of John’s house I add the portrait of your boat in the dusk. I don’t suppose I could come sailing...all boats make me think of miserable Celine--his dreams embodied in sailing ships.”
In the end Richard prevailed upon her, and shortly thereafter Miyoko enclosed a note with a loaned copy of yet another Duras novel which reads:
“I have not ever sailed to witness a dusk and dawn in a boat such as yours. To me minimal art more often remains of minimal interest. Such is not the case with the more recent Duras. I pass it on to your possible interest. Afraid to ask my clumsiness could repeat the grace of Garden City? Yours in the season of sailing, Miyo.”
The intensity of their shared interests and increasingly frequent jaunts as sailing companions led to a rumoured romantic dalliance, despite Miyoko still being otherwise married.
Around this time, Miyoko had a solo exhibition open at the Hyde Park Art Center on Chicago’s South Side. A surviving checklist from the exhibition shows it was a survey of thirty works in total, a retrospective selection of paintings spanning her career up to that point. Richard took an interest in purchasing one of the newer pieces on view, Tabled Landscape, though some degree of confusion concerning pricing and availability of the work ensued. To this initial error Miyoko responded, “Fortunate for me that you have/had kept the souvenir sheet from the show. This time I made a copy on cardboard as that it will not again slip under in the stormy seas of my desktop.” The note implies their relationship was still on at least friendly terms, ending with a rather gossipy reference to their friend John Vinci and notorious Art Institute curator James Speyer, saying, “It seems to me that John left for Europe with a small note of discord--excessive Speyer-ism, perhaps? Yours, Miyo.”
Richard finalized his purchase in the last days of the exhibition. He thereafter wrote to Dan Wells, then the art critic for the Chicago Tribune, with a request for a copy of the photograph which had run alongside a review of the exhibition in the newspaper. Richard noted, “I always have admired Miyo’s work, and at this time succumbed and bought one. I would like the photo as a memento of the exhibit and my first purchase of her art.”
When Richard made arrangements to pick up the work, a conflict arose regarding the amount due and to whom it needed to be paid. A carbon copy of a check made out to the Hyde Park Art Center shows Richard remitted a deposit of $150 on what was quoted as being a $750 purchase on March 13, 1970. A purchaser’s receipt from a cashier’s check written on the same day, however, shows he directly paid Miyoko an additional $270.00. A postscript to a note she wrote him on March 15th ends, “Thank you for the peculiar amount of $270.00” followed by a note on March 18th that reads, “As I explained on the telephone, please still give the Art Center it’s due payment...I shall then be obliged to make it less $100.00 on the remainder.” This cold tone softens once again at the end of the note, which reads, “Thinking of you again and once more thanking you for your encouragement.” This is the last letter on record between the two.
Richard received Tabled Landscape at close of show. It hung in a partially renovated bakery at 1810 Cortland Street, a building which Richard had purchased the previous year, and was at work converting to an apartment and photography studio. It remained there until his sudden death the following year, in April of 1972 at the age of 43, when a partially demolished building collapsed while he was at work inside. A month passed, filled with search parties, false reports, and legal actions before his body was recovered, and his affairs put in order.
Though Richard and Miyoko had, by all accounts, lost touch, and whatever romance there may have been between them had ended long before his life, something of their relationship was inevitably preserved by the painting Richard had purchased. Its power lies not in its content (though it radiates the energy one associates with Miyoko’s best work), or its context in the artist’s oeuvre, but by the circumstances of its acquisition. Its sale marked the relational transition from artist and artist to artist and collector. A shift in dynamic significant enough, by all outward appearances, to signal an end to all other facets of the relationship that preceded it.
Miyoko remained in Chicago until 1983, when at the age of 65 she suffered a cardiac event, the complications of which claimed her life. Though her life ended abruptly, her notoriety only rose. A long and contentious legal battle ensued between her widower, Harry Ichiyasu, and the art dealer Ken Walker (née Kenneth Hodorowski), another rumoured lover of Miyoko’s. The lawsuit was over the alleged gifts the artist had made to Walker prior to her death, of several significant works of art from her personal collection; these included etchings by Pablo Picasso and Giorgio Morandi, and an African fetish sculpture of a dog. The incident captivated the attention of the art world and the general press alike in the Summer of 1986. Though the courts ruled in favor of Walker, later that year he committed an act of self-immolation on the shore of Lake Michigan.
That this drastic and gruesome gesture was precipitated by the acquisition of art works--legal or otherwise--is cause enough to examine what gravity there is in the act of collecting. The desire to own these works seemed to eclipse the mere monetary value of them as objects, eclipsed the sentimental value of the gift of the artist or lover. Yet the works themselves retained the power to cause ruination by mere virtue of possession.
What became of these works is unknown. There is no record to indicate their sale, no heir apparent who might have inherited them. For all the trouble, both personal and legal, that these works of art brought into the lives of those who owned them, those who stole or made gifts of them, they cannot now, as a matter of record, be so much as located.
The same cannot be said of Tabled Landscape. In the years after Richard’s death, the painting changed hands several times. Though many of Richard’s possessions, both personal and professional, were dispersed to family, museums, and institutional archives, the painting by Miyoko was inherited by Carol Sutter, to whom Richard had been engaged to marry at the time of his death. When Sutter herself was killed just a few years later in a car accident, the painting was again inherited, this time by Sutter’s cousin, who had been a colleague of Richard’s, and, incidentally, a tenant in an apartment building owned by John Vinci. There the work was hung in the interstitial space of a stairwell. The painting remains, to this day, property of a private collection. It has never again been exhibited.
1 Author’s note: the book in question is L'Amante Anglaise.
B: Should we start with what you just did outside the gallery?
J: I just cleaned up seven pieces of pizza that were thrown onto the sidewalk in front of my gallery, which were an invitation for ants that had already started to crawl all over it. And seeing as though I wasn’t going to be here for another week, it seemed as though it was probably a
good idea to get on my hands and knees and clean up the pizza. It’s not like someone else will come along and take care of it.
B: Do you ever regret opening up a gallery?
J: I have no regrets having the gallery. The gallery has become a practice, like a studio practice. Something I diligently go to on a weekly basis, and something that I think about when I’m not here. I think about works I want to show, artists that I’d like to collect, relationships that I would like to put together within the gallery.
B: Where does the gallery fit into your overall practice? You have your design studio JNL, you have a show of your own work up right now at the Ken Saunders gallery, where does the gallery practice lie in relationship to your other pursuits?
J: Lawrence & Clark is just another project. I don’t think of it as an art work, I don’t think of it as a commercial space, I don’t think of it as a job. In some respect it’s no different than the opportunity that my exhibition at Ken Saunders presented. I had made a couple neon pieces, Ken offered me a show, so I made fifteen more. It was a project.
B: What do you think of your occupation as, considering the scope of your projects?
J: I’ve never labeled myself. No one title seems to cover the range of my interests and activities. I’m primarily a graphic designer, and since I own my own studio, I’m a self-employed business person. I’m also an artist. I guess once a week for four hours I’m also a gallerist.
B: And occasional art dealer, yes? You occasionally have commercial shows here?
J: We have sold a few things in four years, which I could count on one hand, maybe two.
B: You don’t see very many noncommercial/collection-based galleries in Chicago. What was the intention when you first decided to open--was it meant to just act as a space where you could see something you bought twenty years ago next to something you bought last week?
J: That was the initial idea, yes.
B: Has it done what you hoped it would do?
J: It’s become more social than I expected it to be. I’m not putting barriers on what the gallery becomes. I’m putting work up on the walls, and I’m coming here on Saturdays from 1pm-5pm. What happens because of that is a bit outside of my purview. I do leave the lights on 24/7, and you can see about 85% of the gallery from the street. So I do feel as though when I’m not here the gallery is still doing its job. I know--I know because people have told me--that they have driven by or stopped on the street to look. And that’s as satisfying to me as people coming by on Saturdays.
B: I’m interested in the relationship between what you display here and what you display in your home and your studio. I know your studio has wall-to-wall art, is your home similar?
J: Yeah, the home is choc-a-block, things stacked on top of each other. Things are leaning against the walls.
B: How do you decide what goes home, goes to the studio, or comes here and ends up hanging in the bathroom?
J: There’s no rhyme or reason.
B: And no record?
J: No. I don’t have an inventory.
B: Does everything you own have a context for you?
J: It has a location in my mind. I always know if it’s at the studio, at the gallery, or at home. If it’s at home it’s either upstairs or it’s in the basement; if it’s upstairs, it’s either on the wall or it’s in a closet; if it’s in a closet, it’s in one of four closets. At the studio, it’s either upstairs, downstairs, or in the basement. So I have a vague mental inventory.
B: How often do you go to the basement to get one thing, and come back upstairs with another?
J: Frequently. I get distracted in my storage spaces. Which is what they’re good for.
B: You seem to cast a wide net, in terms of what piques your interest as a collector. Since you buy in the moment, are the works you own tied for you to specific times and places in your life?
J: Oh, very much so. Especially the early work. The stuff I bought in the ‘80s, early ‘90s. Things I bought from artist-run spaces like Randolph Street Gallery. Those have a special place in my personal history.
B: Has your relationship changed over the years to those works?
J: I think of them in the same way, but I also think of them in such a way that I know I couldn't afford some of them now. I have a Tom Freidman photograph--early, actually, it might be his first, he’s not known for his photography--called Spitbubble. For a while he was a Gagosian artist. So I’m very charmed that I can own a piece by an artist whose career has evolved beyond the scope of what I could reasonably acquire. But then I have other things that I bought at the same time, from similar galleries by artists whose reputations haven’t ascended quite so commercially, and some of those things mean as much to me as pieces like Spitbubble.
B: What’s the impact of living and working in spaces where so much of your collection is around you all the time?
J: Having the work around all the time constantly feeds my curiosity. It absolutely gives me a charge.
B: You do a good deal of buying, how often do you sell works from your collection?
J: Not often. I regret everything I sell, equally. I’ve only sold four or five things total, since about 1987.
B: Is that when you started collecting?
J: Yes, not counting things I acquired when I was a kid, still living at home. Things like a Jacob Fishman neon flamingo. Paintings by Bob Fischer, who thought of himself as the Andy Warhol of Chicago.
B: Weren’t you briefly his studio assistant?
J: Yes, I worked for him when I was in high school. Gessoing his canvases, doing his laundry, typing his letters, running errands.
B: Is that part of what lead you towards the art world?
J: Well, I went to college in Boston. While I was there I spent a good deal of time at the Institute for Contemporary Art, the ICA, looking at shows, going to lectures, attending performances. It was very formative. It was where I first saw work by Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, Brian Eno, Jenny Holzer, and that kind of art making is still very important to me. And that was the first time I recognized it.
B: Were you studying art?
J: No, I was studying English Literature. I moved back to Chicago with no professional ambitions, and luckily after a year of floundering around working in a vintage store and a flower store, and doing little odd jobs, I was offered an entry-level position in a design studio run by Michael Glass. I didn’t have a portfolio, I didn’t have any experience, he just sensed a certain aptitude. We met at an art dealer’s loft at a post-opening cocktail party for a show at the
Randolph Street Gallery. I was maybe twenty-two years old. By then I was finding my way towards meeting people in the art world.
B: At that point, graphic design was still an analog, entirely hand-wrought process. Did you have an existing skill set? How did you manage to step into a job like that?
J: On the first day, I was tasked with designing a logo for the renovation of the Rookery. The thing that would go in the window to cover the glass during construction. The drawings were horrible.
B: Did they use them?
J: No. They were ignored. They didn’t know what to do with me.
B: Did you have a sense that this was going to be your career?
J: No, I wouldn’t have guessed at that time that thirty years later I’d still be doing this.
B: Your design work traffics in cultural production, primarily--museums, galleries, restaurants, books and catalogs. You’ve recently rebranded Chicago’s Millennium Park, as well. A job I heard you offered to do, not one you were asked to do.
J: That’s correct, to a point. I was invited to give a lecture at the Chicago Humanities Festival, on communication and graphic design. In it, I made a snarky comment about how bad the initial logo was for the park. It got quite a laugh. There was someone in the audience who remembered the comment, and later enlisted my services for the foundation associated with Millenium Park. The foundation had never had a logo, and had come to realize they needed one to operate more proficiently. Along the way, I suggested that if we were to do the foundation logo properly, it would necessitate redoing the park’s logo. I showed them what it could look like, and they were supportive. It took about eighteen months, and it happened in this kind of backdoor way, but the park has been rebranded.
B: You’ve not just had a hand in projects of that scale though--I doubt I could make it through a whole day in the city without seeing your work on the side of a bus the front of a restaurant, the shelves of a convenience store. Has twenty-five years worth of cultural production of your own making changed your relationship to the city?
J: I’m fifty-four years old. I’ve lived in Chicago fifty years of my life. So there’s that. But I’m still always tickled when I see my work out on the street. It does make me feel a certain connection.
B: As an artist who is accustomed to making credited works, does the anonymity of your high visibility design work ever bother you?
J: When I think about that, I think about going to the supermarket. Every one of the thousands of products on the shelf has a design studio behind it. In context, being the originator of one particular brand or product feels very insignificant. That keeps me humble.
B: How does that fit in to being an art collector? Who the originator was of the thousand or so individual works in your collection is significant.
J: That’s astute.
B: Thanks. Do you have any feelings about being at the intersection of those two things?
J: No. None.
B: What about the visual identity of Chicago apart from your involvement? Do you suppose you would make or collect the same work if you had decided to live in New York, or stayed in Boston?
J: Chicago in the thirty years that I’ve been collecting, has had two significant schools. The Imagists, who predate me. And then the ‘80s conceptualists who were influenced by the Pictures Generation in New York. This would be like Tony Tasset, Judy Ledgerwood, Jeanne Dunning, and it was the latter group that I befriended and started collecting. So my collecting was definitely influenced by that Chicago crew of young artists.
B: You’ve done most of your collecting in the city?
J: Virtually all of it. Mostly from studios, galleries, artist run spaces. Occasionally from art fairs. I’m never looking for anything specific. I’m just looking at what is bubbling up around me in the spaces I visit, and then the artists that are in my milieu, the art that I like, that makes the hairs on my arms stand up, and I can afford it, I buy it. It’s different than the person who is trying to “build” a collection, and is consciously trying to put a group of works together that reference a larger dialogue or have market pedigree.
B: What works or artists are you most pleased to have found out?
J: I had Sterling Ruby’s first large fiberglass sculpture, about six feet tall. I no longer have it, unfortunately. They brought it over to my studio in the back of a pickup truck. I seem to remember these two guys sitting in the back of the truck, holding onto it rather cavalierly. I’m also very fond of Puppies Puppies. I have about seven works by Puppies. I wish I had more. I regret all the things I don’t buy.
Needless to say, the duration he worked in the Programming Industry after University was unsurprisingly limited. One day at work, it so happened that Bosis threw the Computer he worked on out of the window. “I felt like living in a box.”
It marked an obviously final point to his career in Video Animation and he threw himself instead into art, his true passion. Ten years later, Bosi's works have been exhibited in solo and group shows all over Europe. Bosis who is stimulated mostly by the Greek and Indian mythology is a ferocious reader and enjoys also “smart little essays on time” like “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery. He loves philosophy and is a big fan of the contemporary philosopher Armen Avanessian who opened his mind to reflections about our time in general and the perception of our presence in this speculative time in particular. We have met up with him in his Berlin studio to experience his latest works in which he is working on the topic of paradises, but also to catch the first glimpse on a very special book he is working on!
Stefano, first of all, which of these elements (space, air, fire, water, earth) would you choose in relation to your practice and yourself, and why?
Air, definitely air.
I spend most of the time in my studio that is on the top floor of a 5-floor building in Kreuzberg, Berlin. From the window of the studio, I see the roofs of Berlin and I love the feeling to be up there, it looks like problems and difficulties are left down in the streets.
So yes, the air element is the element I would choose. Air connect what you can see, the land, with what we can just perceive, space.
The same way I see myself and my practice as a painter, between spirituality and matter, creating reality from what is not real.
What motivated you to become an artist besides your love for colours and drawing?
The real world inspires me, which unfortunately is also made of suffering.
70% of the population is starving and the other 30% is on a diet, for example. All that I see, all that I read, led me to an empathic state that led me to an experience, a journey inside me, which made me decide to use my energy and my time to become an artist. Because art can scream against indifference, help change and elevate souls.
Do you consider yourself spiritual and how does this feed into your work?
Oh Yes, I consider myself spiritual.
Spirituality is the way to be connected, to receive, like a radio that gets signals from everything that surrounds us. If you have long antennas you get more inputs.
In my work, spirituality is the base everything starts of, where ideas come from and ultimately find their place in the painting.
I consider art a metaphysical act because you create something that wasn´t there before, and every act of creation creates a consequence of energy. Spirituality helps to understand and guide this energy.
The first humans in the stone age, in the past, used paintings and sculptures to attract, to create the events, they wanted to become reality.
I learned from a tribe in North Columbia when I was in the jungle, that for the first men drawing animals in caves, art had a metaphysical function and the artist was a shaman.
Bosis was invited for an art residency in Colombia, that he actually never attended, because when he arrived there he decided to explore the city and the surroundings, hiking and talking to the people. After that, he went on a Central America trip on his motorbike, where he followed the path of the Indios, “discovering an ancient world called “The Jungle”. It made me jump into the lost paradise, realizing that we don’t need many objects to live and thrive if we are surrounded by nature.”
Stefano, you are currently working on a book, please tell us about it.
Yes. This new book is a book that actually nobody can read. It is written in a language that doesn’t exist, based on a code I developed, accompanied by illustrations, suggesting the existence of an irrational space that cannot be explored through science, computers or technology. Proving that art can drive the viewer to a new unknown experience.
The images are so strikingly instant, on point, they seem to trigger a hidden truth we instinctively connect to, like a memory of the future we all carry in us?
Yes, the images have an important role in the book. Some images reveal real things and other images that lead you to discover remote, unexplored territories. All are together at once, in the past present and future time. The most important thing is that you get what you want to see, or better, what you're unconscious decide to recognize.
Where are these images exactly coming from?
Basically, most of them come directly from dreams, the same dreams in which I got the first five characters of the language that it is in the book.
I just remember the images and the story of them after waking up. Other times, they come directly from my imagination when I am in front of the book.
What else are you currently working on and what you are looking forward to this year in terms of upcoming exhibitions?
I am looking forward to several group exhibitions coming up by the end of the year, such as a group show in Palazzo Ducale near Modena Italy, by the Federico Rui Arte Contemporanea gallery. During the Berlin Art Week,
I am part of the Augmented Dream Exhibition, at Kunstraum Bethanien. In this show, which is curated by its artists, which are beside me Marion Fink, Michel Lamoller, Miguel Rothschild, and Gonzalo Reyes Araos we will reflect about our time as we find ourselves at the brink of an important change where digital creation coexists with a non-digital physical. What will happen and how will we think in the future?
Will we be living in an augmented dream?
Do you confirm the narrative you interpret with the artist?
I often become friends with the artists I collect, so if we are friends, I will absolutely ask them questions and confirm any uncertainties I have about any unknown symbolism or meaning in the painting.
How did collecting begin for you?
Collecting began with sports memorabilia for me at a very young age. I actually set up a store of sorts called "Jon's Cards and Cases", in a large closet in my childhood home. I would display and sometimes even sell sports cards that I had acquired to my friends that came to the house. Then after watching Exit Through the Gift Shop, I became interested in street art. I loved the fact these artists were risking legal issues to make public art -- while not even getting paid for it! I collected street art for a while as it is a much smaller world and easier to navigate than the contemporary fine art market.
Initially I felt very overwhelmed by the contemporary art world. As mentioned, I don't have a history in the art world so I was very green. I did not understand how the mechanics of the art world worked at all. It can be a very intimidating place for a young person that doesn't have a lot of money. As I started working with galleries for their real estate needs, I befriended many dealers and started gaining a sense of how the art world operated.
Ever since I started getting serious about collecting contemporary art, I've always stuck with the same formula. The first question is, "do you love the work?". If the answer is no, I immediately move on. There is so much out there I'd like to buy, but a much smaller number of works my gut and heart make me feel compelled to buy. The second part is "can I afford this?!".
Who are some of your favorite artists?
All time favorite artists include Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Matisse, Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keefe, Tom Wesselman, Peter Saul, Roger Brown, Nicole Eisenmann, and Kerry James Marshall.
Some of my favorite emerging artists include Sasha Gordon, Jordan Kasey, Didier William, Lenz Geerk, Cynthia Talmadge, Emily Ludwig Shaffer, Anna Weyant, Issy Wood, Arghavan Khosravi, Bendy Eyckermans. Oh man, I could go on for a while.
Who or what you are collecting right now?
I'm always collecting figurative painting, and can't imagine changing that. It's just what speaks to me.
In terms of who I'm collecting now, some of the recent additions to my collection include Amoako Boafo, Anthony Cudahy, Issy Wood, Alannah Farrell, and Maria Fragoso.
How does your work in real estate involve art?
Working with galleries is currently about eighty percent of my real estate practice. The other twenty percent is a mixed bag of creative firms ranging from lighting showrooms to architecture firms.
Over the last few years, there has been a significant change in the gallery landscape in New York, with several prominent galleries leaving Chelsea and opening in Tribeca. I'm proud to have represented most of them in their moves.
When I left the large corporate firm I used to work at, I knew had to find a niche to be successful working on my own. New York is a hyper competitive city with real estate being one of the most competitive industries. Without a focus, it can be very difficult to survive and the turnover rate for commercial real estate brokers is incredibly high.
What are you excited about in the art world?
What excites the most in the art world is discovering new artists, and seeing artists I support do great things. There is a genuine rush of seeing a work by someone new for the first time and saying "wow that's an incredible painting". When I get that feeling, I know my bank account is in imminent danger.
It's also just as exciting when an artist I've supported since the beginning of their career gets a major review, creates an amazing new body of work, or inclusion in a museum show. All can be very rewarding, especially when I was buying the work before there was any type of market or critical acknowledgement.
I'm also curating a show opening October 24th in Tribeca which I'm extremely excited about. It's my first attempt at doing any type of curatorial work so I'm stoked about it.
How do you challenge the perception of the traditional art buyer?
For the traditional art buyer, I push boundaries on taste, looking into new styles, mediums, artists. I push against their biases, searching for new possibilities.
For the novice buyer, I push against the perception of fine art being unattainable or extremely expensive. People often think art is out of their reach, but you really just need to know where to look. I can often provide that vision for people.
I think another way I challenge all art buyers is by creating immersive experiences at events and galleries. By being able to step into or walk through or experience art through more than just sight, the art is able to evoke emotion. By doing this, it creates a feeling and a connection to a piece or artist or style stronger than if the person just saw it hanging on a wall.
You're fresh from Electric Jungle, an event which saw the merging of art and music and even transportation, tell us about that...
The Electric Jungle was an incredible experience. It was the 3rd iteration of The Art Plug Power House, an event series I created to experience art outside of the traditional gallery setting. It’s something I can cut and paste and mold into different settings and environments.
The Electric Jungle was an opportunity presented by my partners at Lyft, who I’ve been doing cool campaigns with for a few years now. They approached me about 6 weeks ago wanting to create a cool experience for Miami Music Week in collaboration with the Brightline, an express rail system in South Florida. I was granted creative control over the project and wanted to create a unique, lively experience for people to travel down from West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale to Ultra and other MMW events in an immersive, creative environment.
We covered the train in Jungle decor, featuring details from our artists Lefty Out There and Tiago Magro, and installed a DJ booth with live performances during the rides by DJ Nano, one of Miami’s hottest resident DJs, and the dynamic duo, Black Caviar.
We look forward to creating an even better experience next year!
Coming up next is Rolling Loud, where we’ll be curating activation space for one of their major sponsors. I can’t share too many details, but I’m really looking forward to it. This is the hottest festival in the world at the moment and we’re going to create something special for it.
For more updates on our events, check out theartplugpowerhouse.com and @theartplugpowerhouse on Instagram.
Is it a lifestyle you're wanting to create? How are you going about that?
Yes, I consider myself the curator of my own lifestyle. One of the major reasons I sought out entrepreneurial endeavors was to, frankly, do whatever I want to do. I set out to create a career around something I liked and a lifestyle I wanted to live. This lifestyle entails creative freedom, connecting with smart and creative people, traveling around the world, and having fun in the process.
The way I go about doing that is a mix of planning and just doing. While I obviously plan things out, connect dots, and create some sort of roadmap, a lot of the process is just living that lifestyle I want to live and figuring out how to make it all cohesive as I go. I wake up and just do what feels right. As I work with artists and brands, creating exciting projects, I see the lifestyle manifesting in front of my eyes.
Which artists, old and contemporary have had the biggest impact on you?
That’s a hard one. There are so many great artists and people in the business that I’ve learned from and have had some impact on me.
Some notable ones would be Rothko, Warhol, Picasso, and Dali. Rothko’s exhibition at Tate Modern in London showed me how art can invoke emotion. One of my favorite quotes from Warhol was “good business is the best art.” Picasso was a man of many talents, which pushed me to learn different facets of the business. Dali was a madman and showed me that I really could be myself in this game.
Someone who I look up to in the business is Larry Gagosian. He’s paved the way for many dealers to create their own brand and a global network.
Tell us about your artist crew and what draws you to each one?
I have a pretty large roster of artists. There’s a huge range of styles, mediums, personalities, and backgrounds amongst the roster. I work with painters, photographers, designers, illustrators, sculptors. We are a fresh crew of creatives rapidly growing. I work closely with the list below but work in some capacity with 200+.
Some notable ones are:
Jonathan Ryan Harvey
John Paul Fauves
Lefty Out There
Robin Velghe aka RhymezlikeDimez
This Is Addictive
Who's the latest artist to join the art plug roster?
We’ve had a handful of very talented artists join our roster recently. Two painters, Jonathan Ryan Harvey and Revolue, both have distinct abstract styles that I really like.
Kourosh Keynejad is a world-traveling photographer who documents his travels in very high-quality prints. Marius Sperlich is a German photographer who practices macro photography using live models. It's incredibly innovative, unique work that recently landed on the cover of Playboy Magazine.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I think I’d like to be doing the same things but on a much larger scale.
I want to be working with bigger artists from more diverse backgrounds. I want to be throwing bigger events. I want to be working with bigger partners and sponsors.
I really like the trajectory I’m currently on. A lot of pieces are coming together and falling into place for me.
I just want to continue to grow my business and scale everything to a much higher degree and keep this movement flowing.