This interview with Thaddaeus Ropac is well worth reading all the way through. He talks about the net positive of Contemporary art’s popularity even given the attendant market forces that pressure the industry. He gently chastises the craziness of Art Basel Miami Beach, wondering whether it’s at all good for the art. And, finally, he tells this story about how he met Jean-Michel Basquiat and became his dealer:
At what point did you begin to trust your taste and have confidence in the things that you like?
Well, I was fortunate enough to meet Jean-Michel Basquiat before he was known in Europe. I had never heard the name; he was this African-American working in a basement in New York. After I met him, he gave me a portfolio of his drawings and that was my first little show at the beginning of the ’80s. I believed 100% in this artist, but in a naïve way. I didn’t know much, but I believed in it. I didn’t need somebody to tell me this is great, I felt this is great. I don’t know, maybe it’s a gut feeling. I don’t know why it worked out so well, but I always believed 100% in the artists I worked with. There was no doubt in my mind.
How did you get in touch with Basquiat?
It was my first visit to New York and I didn’t know anybody there, but through Joseph Beuys I was connected with Andy Warhol. I was a nobody from Austria, but I asked Warhol about young artists and somehow he said, “This is a young artist.” Of course, I maybe wouldn’t have looked at Basquiat so carefully if somebody else had given me his name, so it was helpful for me that it was Warhol. But when I first met Basquiat, I did not know what to expect. I went in and he was working on the floor… It was an amazing experience. And it led to several shows during his lifetime. We worked together between 1982 and 1988. We had four wonderful shows with him.