Sunday, July 28, 2013

Conversations with Dan Asher

Lately I've been thinking about an old friend Dan Asher.  He was someone a lot of art world people knew, but did not like to admit it.  I met him at the Russian Baths in the East Village and he became a sort of avuncular figure to me.  Quickly I picked up on the fact that people like Jerry Saltz avoided him as he passed on Chelsea streets.  Dan's admitted frustrations with the art world were rooted in the fact that he witnessed things like the avaricious nature of a major gallerist's vampiric consumption of Basquiat (a story about selling his jazz records without telling him) and still harbored emotions about it, since Jean Michel was his friend.   This was countered by the fact that any artist in NYC faces, the need for money.  This all too often makes selling out to individuals that one would not normally deal with.  Watching Dan do his daily dance of selling his work to people on the margins of the art world and/or borrow money from friends to pay a phone bill was somewhat amusing, but equally distressing.

I think what impressed me about Dan, outside of his high level of intelligence, honesty and intense nature that felt like a pressure cooker waiting at any moment to blow, was the passion he clearly had for his work.  Integrity was something deeply important to him.

Before I  had to leave NYC myself, Dan gave me a bunch of small original photos.  I wanted to return them, but he wouldn't answer those attempts.  I think he must have wanted me to have them.  I am proud of those pictures and even though my art collection is much smaller than I would like, having those makes up for that ten fold.

I was disappointed to find out when I did that he had passed.  I had been living outside the country and there was no way to go to the city.  Either way...RIP to a real artist who actually gave a FCUK beyond some bull$hit complacency of towing the line all the way to the corporate art market.