Artist on artist action: 10 Questions

What was the first artwork that made an impression on you?

Duchamp’s “Urinal.”

You were in New York during one of its heydays. Looking back, did you have a sense there was something important going on?

I inhabited the East Village in the early ‘80s, when Keith Haring and Jeff Koons were its rising stars. I worked in SoHo at the same time that Basquiat, Salle, Schnabel, and Clemente were emerging artists, and at the Whitney when all of these guys were in the Biennials. Castelli and Sonnabend were still the king and queen of the art world, and I used to stop in their galleries and chat with them. I absolutely felt at the center of something big.

Do people over-glamorize that era?

Hindsight and history are synonymous.

Is talent something you’re born with?

One can acquire skill, but talent is innate.

What is it about British mystery films that you are drawn to?

British crime dramas, actually. They are full of style, grit, and politics. They can also be damn funny. America takes itself too seriously.

Why is the concept of originality so valued in the art world?

I don’t think it is anymore. The art world has become exactly like the fashion world, with its icons and celebrated emulators. You don’t have to design a new shoe, just a damn sexy one.

What three things never fail to bring you pleasure?

Humor, sex, and food.

It’s a popular theory that artists produce better work when they’re in
 a state of turmoil. Do you think there’s any truth to that?

If there were, then the Middle East would be the center of the art world.

Taking money out of the equation, what one piece of artwork would you own?

Chris Burden’s “Samson.” I’d install it in my foyer.

It might be a secret that you have a beautiful alto tenor voice. Is this
something you trained and developed?

I sang in my synagogue’s chorus and my school’s church choir. Cantor Harry Stanley taught me how to use my diaphragm, and made me learn Broadway show tunes so that I would be more animated and feel the music. Reverend Trimble showed me how to sing, walk, and carry a big stick (the cross). •

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