Last week, the Los Angeles Times had a profile, really a look back at the career, of Patrick Painter whose transformed himself from the epitome of the 1980s art buyer into the most compelling gallerist in Los Angeles … for a time.
Michael Slenske writes, “in Painter’s prime, […] he lorded over the L.A. scene like the bastard son of P. T. Barnum and Suge Knight, a street-styled autodidact art savant who was mentored by a Who’s Who of legendary dealers, including Leo Castelli and Walter Hopps, by day and by night scandalized cities from L.A. to Berlin alongside art gods like Mike Kelley and Martin Kippenberger.”
Read the profile but here are some indelible excerpts:
- The New York-based gallerist and former MOCA director was one of the first art-world players to meet Painter back in the late 1980s, when he was “a hunky guy in a tweed jacket” who collected big-ticket works—Sigmar Polke, On Kawara and Ed Ruscha paintings; Robert Gober, Donald Judd and Bruce Nauman sculptures—by the bunches from the world’s top galleries and auction houses with the backing of his then-girlfriend Winnie Fung, whose father founded the Hong Kong financial services giant Sun Hung Kai & Co. The couple even commissioned Julian Schnabel to make plate paintings of themselves. In the wake of their 1989 breakup, however, Painter and Fung attempted to offload a portrait of Schnabel’s old flame Ahn Duong for an estimate three times higher than what they had purchased it for just four years prior. When it failed to sell at a 1990 Sotheby’s auction, the couple—and by default, Schnabel—were skewered in multiple articles, as well as in Anthony Haden-Guest’s 1996 art-world tell-all True Colors, as arbiters of the eighties bubble.
- “For many years Patrick was the show, or as much of the show as the artists were,” says Dean Valentine, who collected heavily with Painter when he was the president of Walt Disney Television. “That matters, because when you’re living in Los Angeles and you have to drive twenty miles to get to a gallery, you want the tour to have been worth it. Patrick added an entertainment value that was really helpful.”
- Tim Blum, of Blum & Poe, sees Painter as a classic Icarus figure. “He blew up and had a gallery that was second to none with a future as bright and endless as he wished,” he says. “He flamed out brutally and quickly but forever left an imprint on the art world globally, and definitively in Los Angeles.”
The rise and fall and rise of Patrick Painter (Los Angeles Times)