Wednesday, March 8, 2017

How Kanye West changed my life

About ten years ago around Christmas time two fellows walked into a gallery I managed. Lots of Holiday fundraising teams have been walking around so I assumed they were another pair out on the street who were also curious about art in the window. I initially didn't even rush to get the sculpture out of our display case when asked about it by one of the guys.

I started my usual sales inquiry by asking the fellow who stepped forward: -'Are you involved in the arts?' -"Yes, but on the music side of things. I've always loved Jeff Koons though." Not knowing who was standing in front of me, I proceeded with -"Did you go to school to study art history? or fine art?". He replied with - "I dropped out, but always enjoyed Chicago art museums"...and so the conversation flowed. In the meantime, my sales associates laughed at my ignorance in the back room, knowing full well that I am perhaps making a fool of myself in front of Kanye. But this was a great, genuine exchange, and I even goofed on the spelling of his name when he gave me his direct e-mail address. His manager was a good sport keeping up the fa├žade standing next to him. Our sales relationship lasted for over five years from that point onwards. I think it was all due to the fact that I didn't know that I was to treat him like a star. He was an authentic person, with interesting things to say, and pretty sophisticated art tastes to boot.

I think about my encounter with Kanye a lot now that I am dedicating myself to my own art more and more. It is so easy to get hung up on fame and lose your genuine self. He didn't.

You turn into an obsessive attention seeker and lose that energy that births stunning works. It's inevitable that recognition puts you into a certain role for which you get cast over and over again, with your style becoming boring, repetitive and trite. Your personality suffers. I didn't see any signs of fame shaping his interactions.

You overwork things hoping others will approve. You don't do art because you simply need to satisfy that voice that comes from within. And yet, everyone can still find their voice in relation to other voices. With focusing his attention on his varied interests, he did just that.

I also think of my role as a sales consultant in that particular scenario. It was that honest interest in who he was as a budding art collector that pushed me to be a natural saleswoman.I was someone whose stomach did not churn at the fear of rejection, or of being criticized or ridiculed. I wish I could wear that hat when I make and judge my own art. I wish I wouldn't be so alarmed at the contrasting statements I put out with my melted, scratched, layered world. Thank you, Kanye, for giving me some life long lessons that help keep me on track.

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