XXXII. "Street Art: Part One"
This is part one of a series of Tales… columns devoted to buying art on the street. Since moving to New York a few years ago, I began to collect art from those people who sell their work via card tables in parks or on street corners. I love the idea of owning original art, but I’ve always been captivated by the way "art" changes when it’s done by someone you know or have shared a conversation with.
A book inscribed to you by the author, for instance. If a good friend of yours writes a book and inscribes it to you, and the friend goes on to become a Nobel prize-winning author, the signature in the book would most likely be worth a lot of money to some people. The author will go on to be an international figure. But to you, the signature does not possess any sort of monetary worth, just that priceless memory or reminder of the friend and your collective friendship. The signature does not hold as much monetary value as it does hold value as a catalyst for memory.
With street art, I like to buy only after I’ve talked to artist a few times, learned their story, and had that feeling of admiration/respect that generally just means I like the person. And at that very, very basic level, a story goes along with each of these pieces. More often than not, the story has to do with memories the piece sparks, moreso than the actual artist or the purchase of the piece. That being said, I hope you enjoy these pieces and their complementary tales.
Title: "Romeo and Juliet, NY"
Description: 8 x 10 black and white photograph, matted but unframed.
Artist: Michael Gordon
Price: Twenty dollars
One night in the summer of 2005, I was out at a bar in the west village with a friend from college who was visiting. I had just moved to the city and we were incredibly lost. The streets in the village start to twist and turn out of the easy grid system that defines most of Manhattan, and after coming across an amazing record store—first pressings of Lou Reed’s Transformer and Television’s debut—somewhere near Christopher street, we wandered outside in search of the bar we’d been to the previous night.
Outside the record store we eventually found Bleeker Street, which I knew would eventually lead us back where we were going if we just kept heading east. It was along Bleeker somewhere, however, at which cross street I am not certain, that we came across a man named Mike selling photographs.
It’s not strange to see people selling art on the street, particularly on Bleeker. However it is strange to see someone doing it at ten at night, with a desk lamp to illumn iate his plastic containers full of prints. A little tired of walking, and interested to see what kind of art Mike planned on selling at ten at night, when just about everyone out on the street is either carrying groceries home or on their way to a night out. I was mostly curious to know what sort of photographs a person might buy if they were then going to have to carry it around the rest of the evening.
When I came across the "Romeo and Juliet, NY," I liked it immediately, however it was the desire not to have to deal with carrying something the rest of the night that made me have misgivings. Michael Gordon and a middle-aged man who appears to be the type of man to always look like he just finished mowing a lawn somewhere. When I took interest in the "Romeo and Juliet," he took notice:
- Like that one, eh?
- Yeah, I do. It’s outside the Shakespeare in the Park Theater, right?
- Yes sir. The Delacorte theater. I took that in the winter of 2001, he said, indicating the signature with the date and copyright.
- I love it, I replied. It looks like they’re floating.
- That’s because they are floating, he said. They’re in love. You always float when you’re in love.
After he said that—sappy and silly as it may be—I bought it, and carried it around for the rest of the night. At around 4 am my friend and I had a good laugh when we made the connection that if you float when you’re in love, we had fallen perhaps too deeply in love with Brooklyn Lager.
Next week: Mixed media in Union Square with Basquiat and a Russian.