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Art|Basel|2017: «An Experimental Interview With Larry Gagosian»

21 Jun

Larry Gagosian’s Experimental Interview
Portrait created by Andreas Baier
Click to enlarge gogogagosianedly

Larry Gagosian, one of the most influential art dealers in the world, very rarely gives interviews. Nevertheless, he agreed to do an experimental one with us on this year’s Art|Basel|2017, which means that we were preferably communicating with each other on a spritual level only; a mental area where spoken words should be recognised as an exotic exception.

Meerschweinchenreport:
When looking at Jean Pigozzi’s photograph which was taken in 1991 and that shows Charles Saatchi, Leo Castelli and you all dressed to the nines in swimming trunks, we are asking ourselves what all of you might have had for breakfast that very same day?

Larry Gagosian:
That’s an interesting question, indeed. As far as I can remember, we first tore one of Lucio Fontana’s «Concetto spaziale»-paintings apart in order to make its taste a bit more sophisticated. We then had a plate of the usual course: ham, eggs, sausages, baked beans, French toast with strawberries, black pudding and coffee. Lots of coffee. Sure, there was orange juice too. At that moment we thought that this was pretty cool but after all these years, honestly, we’re still busy digesting Fontana properly. The only thing that helps starting collectors to not underestimate Fontana’s work is the price they’ve got to pay for it. If you want to make the people obeying work of art the perfect way, then make the objects as expensive as even possible.

Meerschweinchenreport:
Tom Wolfe wrote in his book «The Painted Word» that abstract expressionism is, at least, about celebrating «nothingness». And he reported that one day Jackson Pollock appeared on one of Peggy Guggenheim’s soirées uninvitedly and completely drunk, managed to get himself undressed and urinated to her guests’ greater surprise stante pede into the living room’s fireplace. Are those days over?

Larry Gagosian:
These are two good questions proving impressively how much the so-called «nothingness» and a strong performance transporting the unbeatable taste of abstract expressionism rely on each other significantly. Irritation is the basis of seduction. I remember a conversation I had decades ago with a professor teaching English literature that led us from literature over aesthetics to contemporary art. For some reason he ended up saying that abstract art were not worthy of serious consideration—that they were superficial and overrated, which was a funny comment to hear in an English class at UCLA. To illustrate the point, he said, «If you look at this da Vinci or this Raphael, you can go from the eyes to the woman’s navel and there is a perfect triangle. But now we have artists who paint a triangle and they call that art.» So I stuck my hand up, which I didn’t do very often, and said, «Maybe sometimes you just want to look at a triangle.» But that sticks out in my memory as something that got me thinking about aesthetics. And to answer your third question: yes but no.

Meerschweinchenreport:
Let’s talk about Leo Castelli and Susan Sontag. While Mr. Castelli was dealing with Gabriele and Alexander Baier about an article in «Magazin KUNST», Susan Sontag grabbed the chance to introduce our staff-photographer with the real essence of life: «Sleep, sleep, sleep!». At that time he was a baby and enjoyed it very much being instructed quite gently this way. Is there anything Leo Castelli taught you in particular, so you feel that you learned from him?

Larry Gagosian:
That’s another very good question. I can’t answer it simply, but he showed me how a gallery could really make the art feel important. Of course, it helps to have work by artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, and Jasper Johns. But the way you present the work has a lot to do with how people receive and regard it. Leo always had great style in the way he presented the work—and without making it too fussy. Leo also showed me that you could have a lot of fun being a dealer. He liked to have a good time. But the fact that you could have a business as serious as Leo Castelli’s and still have a wonderful life—that was a life lesson as well as a business lesson. The other thing he taught me was not to give too many interviews. In the later years of Leo’s life, we were partners. We had a gallery together, we shared artists, and we had a fairly formalized business relationship. But I’d call him up because I wanted to talk about a painting or a show or a deal, and I’d be told, «Mr. Castelli is being interviewed.» [Larry Gagosian laughs]

Meerschweinchenreport:
Sounds like a «Wink mit dem Zaunpfahl» – as we say in Germany. Mr. Gagosian, thank you very much for this highly experimental interview.

Larry Gagosian:
You’re mostly welcome.

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Interviews that helped us very much to be spiritually experimental: Interview Magazine, Bidoun Magazine, WSJ. Magazine and The Guardian.
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