Tag Archives: art

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Curating Culture: Our Interview with Gallerist Bill Powers

Of the hundreds of art spaces in New York City, Bill Powers and his Half Gallery stand out. Behind signature rose-colored glasses, Powers has a keen eye for exceptional talent, who he lets run wild in his recently relocated uptown space. Along with his wife, designer Cynthia Rowley—whom he met while interviewing her for BlackBook magazine—he also runs Exhibition A, curating and selling affordable prints by some of the city’s best artists. The native New Yorker and Montauk local has also dabbled in reality TV—as judge of Bravo’s Work of Art. But that’s just the half (no pun intended) of it: he’s also a published author, master networker, and still finds time for family, surfing, and talking to us about all of the above.

On Montauk:
My grandparents had a fishing boat at the Montauk Marine Basinand we used to stay on the boat when I was a little kid. In a lot of ways it remains the same [as it was back then], in that there are no traffic lights, and all the touristy t-shirt shops you could ever want. And I think that John’s ice cream shop opened the year I was born in ’67. I love Montauk. It’s the least Hamponized out of any of the towns out here still. I know people have the “no fedora” stickers and complain about too many nightclubs. But if you don’t seek that stuff out and just go to the beach and go surfing and grill at your house you can be immune to a lot of those invasion complaints.

On meeting Cynthia:
I was a little nervous. The one funny thing is I stepped out of the room for a minute. I don’t remember if I left the tape recorder on, or if she turned it on, but she goes to her assistant, “I mean, he’s cute but these questions are really boring.” Then later when I was transcribing the tape and I got to that point, my ego demanded that it had to be a joke. That was either 1996 or 1997. Then we both married other people. When we got divorced, years later, we got together.

On the beach in East Hampton

His wife’s creativity:
I always think it’s amazing that she got her creative/commercial spark from her grandfather on her mom’s side, who had gone to Pratt and was an illustrator. In her office, she has the Pabst Blue Ribbon logo that he designed with his name on the bottom and a Patent Pending stamp. I think it’s an interesting clue to her wanting to do something creative that has that immediate commercial application.

Prepping for interviews:
Now I pretty much only interview artists. Last year Gagosian put out a book of my artist interviews. Most of the time it’s someone whose work I know or have admired. What’s nice about doing an interview like that is it’s like looking for an apartment in New York: you just have to ask everyone you know that you think might have information. I can’t remember who told me that Ed Ruscha used to live in Swifty Lazar’s old house; or I remembered seeing Dan Colen collecting trash in a Louis Vuitton bag and thought, “What the hell is this?” It turned out to be the beginning of his collecting stuff for his Trash paintings. Sometimes proximity is information too.

Getting into the gallery business: In 2008 I was helping the guys from the nonprofit RxArt find a space on the Lower East Side. They only needed half the space and they were looking for someone to rent out the front half of their office. I ran it by Andy Spade, and he said let’s do something together and we’ll call it Half Gallery.

Artist discovery:
There’s not really a formula to it. We opened this Eddie Martinez show (below). And we’re doing a Rene Ricard tribute show. Then we’re showing an Irish painter that Richard Prince discovered on Twitter last year. So there’s not really a clear path.

Uptown vs. Downtown:
After being downtown for five years we were ready for a change. At the time it seemed unexpected to move to the Upper East Side, but we’re a block from where Calder and Picasso used to show. We’re a block away from the old Castelli Gallery. There are more and more galleries opening up here. It’s funny to see Harmony Korine open up here at Gagosian. It’s nice to walk some new floors and get some new ideas. On the business side it’s been amazing. We get less foot traffic at the openings, but more buyers. Since we moved up here we’ve been written up in the New Yorker twice and that never happened downtown. I don’t mean to be a geographic snob because I know the New Yorker will also write about shows downtown, but it never happened for us.

Montauk’s artist history:
I appreciate that there’s art out here. I like that it’s where Warhol had his house, and Peter Beard is still out here. And Julian Schnabel’s in the Seven Sister’s houses as well as Bruce Weber.

Surfing slip-ups:
I once made the mistake of excitedly asking Kelly Slater, “Have you ever been surfing out in Montauk?” and he’s like “Yeah, it sucks, why do you ask?” And I was like, “Oh, never mind.”

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On reality TV:
I think it’s one and done on that. I had a lot of fun and it would have been cool if it kept on going just because there’s so little art on television.

His summer reading list:
There’s the catalog for the Raymond Pettibon “Surfers” show. Cynthia has a few copies for sale in the store in Montauk [696 Montauk Hwy]. The last book I read was Rachel Kushner’s Flame Throwers.


Raphael Mazzucco: Fashion, Photography and Frequent-Flying

Few people can say they’ve traveled the globe for two years photographing amazing butts. There are also few people that can say they’ve landed the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, three times. Few people, of course, are Raphael Mazzucco, one of the world’s most celebrated fashion photographers and one of the area’s most creative residents. In between adventures—which include a Surf Lodge exhibition and a show in London of resin and paint-layered collages, aptly titled “Montauk”—we tracked Mazzucco down at home to ask a few questions.


Where are you from?
Vancouver, Canada.

What drew you to Montauk initially?
I lived in New York City for 12 years. I came out [to Montauk] for a holiday. We were going to rent this house and we ended up buying it the day we came. It wasn’t planned, I never thought I’d live in Montauk. But now, it’s home. The house here plays a huge role for me. I love the idea of being in the house and working and going outside and hosing prints down and starting over. I’m working out of the house I love.

So your house is also your art studio. Tell us about what you’re working on here.
We’re doing tabletops (points) and this one’s with a gannet bird, it’s like seven inches thick. Everything around the house we use in the collages and we’ll put different elements of nature in the pieces. I think we used 75 gallons of resin for this. I started working with resin 15 years ago, and it came very natural. I wanted to work with it so I could make the photography look more like sculpture. It’s also cool that we’re in a surf town and there’s that connection with the resin and surfboards. It’s a subconscious thing.


Do you get in the ocean much?
I love to go swimming. When I first moved here, I’d go swimming in the bay, but I learned later there were sharks in there. I’d be swimming around and all the locals are like, “What is he on?”

You’ve been here for over a decade now, how do you find the changes in Montauk?
Even back in 2008, there were like 3,000 people living here. I actually like it more now. I like how busy it is. There’s a lot of energy. Historically, Montauk has had an amazing artist community. It’s the nature of the place. If you’re living in Montauk, the way the light is always changing is super incredible. You go from one sunset to the other.
Who are some artists you’re influenced by?
There’s so many artists that I really love. I love Francis Bacon. I love the photographer Irving Penn. I would say my favorite artist is Robert Rauschenberg. I love how raw and simple his work is. Miró and Picasso, of course.

You’ve photographed so many beautiful women in your life. What makes a woman beautiful?
It’s absolutely [what’s on] the inside. The spirit. People often ask me who the most beautiful girl I’ve photographed is. I could never answer that, because everyone’s got a different spirit. They give different things.

You’ve also traveled to some amazing locations for photo shoots. What’s the most memorable location you’ve been to?
It’s the same answer as with the girls. They’re always so different. To go from Vietnam to Iceland, to Iceland to Africa, from Africa to China, it provides such a different sort of inspiration. But I think it’s about where you are in life, what you’re doing and what inspires you. All these wonderful places give inspiration.

Can you talk about how you approach photography that you do for a client versus the work that you’re doing for yourself?
I think somebody gets hired because of what the client loves about their work. The shooting is always preordained. The client knows exactly what I’m going to deliver, and they know what they want. So it’s about being able to work really well together with people. With the art, it’s you, yourself, you just go for it. Which I also love.

Your project Culo, a series of photographs and collages of women’s butts from around the world, seemed like a coupling of this commercial and artistic work. How did that come together?
Actually, will.i.am did a video for Jimmy Iovine in Brazil, and he came back with all these shots that were just from the waist down. It was really Jimmy’s idea to do a coffee table book. We worked on a butt book for, like, two years.

So two years circling the world looking for great butts.
Yeah, circling the globe, taking photos of butts. It was a really fun project. Incorporating the art with the book was super enjoyable. We shot in Vietnam, we went to Milan, Brazil, Iceland, all over the place. I thought I knew what a great butt was. But after two years, I really learned a lot! They really vary so much, you know? When somebody takes their clothes off you don’t expect stuff like that.

Were any butts shot in Montauk?
Actually there are a lot of butts shot here in Montauk. I would just spontaneously do it, whenever there was a great girl around. I would just bring her to nature and shoot. Some proceeds of Culo went to a fund that helps Afghani and Iraqi vets.

Do you have any other causes you champion?
I just did a really great charity with Samuel Eto, the soccer player. And I did a lot with One by One with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s charity. Being able to give is a blessing. So whenever I can, I love to be involved.

What do you think of the current state of fashion photography, and about the industry using Instagram more often to get their work out?
I’m a big fan of all that stuff. For a long time I wasn’t a believer in it, but, it’s fun. It’s really great that people can see things so quickly. I’ve got to learn those hashtags.

The industry must be quite different today than when you got started. What would you tell an aspiring photographer, or even your son, about starting now?
Whatever you do in life, you just have to really love and have a passion for. Then everything else will happen in a natural way. I believe in doing things with what you love. It doesn’t matter how difficult it is, just hang in there and be blessed that you love something.


Photography by Nick Hudson

Alex Gartenfeld: A Young Curator’s Pioneering Approach to Miami’s Newest Institution

With a keen eye and entrepreneurial spirit, 27-year-old Alex Gartenfeld launched his first curatorial endeavor out of a cramped Chinatown, NY apartment. Many critically acclaimed exhibitions later, and after a long run as Art In America and Interview‘s online editor, Gartenfeld uprooted to sunny Florida. Continue reading