Art, Darling – The New York Times

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Art, Darling – The New York Times

Antwaun Sargent was nursing Negroni in Frankie’s Spantino, a haunting place in Brooklyn. He described the benefits of his multi-layered career.

“I had a supper with Madonna,” he said last Friday. “It’s not hard to imagine that she grew up as a gay man in Chicago in the 90’s. I was excited. I was crazy about her.”

But at the moment of their encounter last year, Mr. Sargent struck the Earth. Pulling out her iPhone, his former idol showed him the work of Rocco Ritchie, a 21-year-old son with filmmaker Guy Ritchie, and he for nearly an hour about her hopes for a boy. I rebuked him.

“It made things a reality,” Sargent said. “Madonna was here-legend, icon-she’s just a mom and she’s looking for guidance.”

It seems that the pop diva knew where to go.

Turned from a former kindergarten teacher to a vocal champion of artists, curators, and black artists, Sargent, 33, was appointed director of the prestigious mega gallery Gagosian in January 2021.

His first show, Social Works, focused on an interdisciplinary roster in 2021 that set up a small farm in the gallery space, including Theaster Gates, architect David Adjaye, and filmmaker Linda Good Bryant. rice field. The show also highlighted Mr. Sargent’s mission. It’s about giving a prominent seat at the table to a black artist who was only unplannedly represented by a leading art institution.

It’s a mission that Sargent happened to share with cultural scholar Virgil Abloh, each eager to convey a sense of commitment and community to artists of all disciplines, including painters, architects, sculptors, musicians and fashion designers. did.

As a result, it was almost inevitable that Mr. Abro, who dealt with fashion, music, architecture and art, would invite Mr. Sargent to curate a retrospective exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. The show was set to be the best event of his career — Mr. Abro died of a long illness last year — and certainly the wings of Mr. Sargent’s hat.

The exhibition “Metaphorical Expressions” will begin on July 1st, with works placed along tables rather than walls, displaying artifacts and artwork from Mr. Abro’s archives. The show, which was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 2019, deviates significantly from the first incarnation curated by Michael Darling.

The Brooklyn installation began modestly with Mr. Abro’s 1981 high school architectural project, which includes his early fashion drawings, artwork, and clothing. Influential collaborations with Takashi Murakami, Kanye West and Rem Koolhaas, as well as men’s wear from designer fashion labels Pilex Vision, Off-White and Louis Vuitton are on display.

The show’s striking highlight, the rustic pine-covered school building, is a hands-on classroom that offers visitors “cheet sheet” lessons in areas such as industrial design, music, architecture and fashion design. It is built to function as. “Everything Virgil touched on,” said Sargent. This structure will occupy 1,400 square feet of the museum’s large hall.

Yes, it takes up space, and that’s the point. “Space is the thread that connects all the work I do,” Sargent said. He said the universe can imply power. “The question is,” What are you going to do in that space? ” “

If the artist simply wants to advance himself, “I’m not interested in it,” Sargent said. “But if I’m taking up space to make more space for other people and for other black artists, I’m deeply interested in it.”

Sargent himself means taking up a wide range of people’s consciousness. He is a prolific writer and has published critical essays in The New York Times and New Yorkers. Last year, he was a guest editor at Art in America, turning the issue of new talent in May magazine into a platform for black critics, painters and photographers. He publishes a series of house catalogs in Gagosian — zines, he calls them —.

“He has great work ethic and is a team player,” said Larry Gagosian. “He deserves the attention he receives, but he doesn’t want a lot of attention for himself. Maybe you’re working with someone who has a constant ego trip. There is none.”

Gagosian added: “Many galleries focus on underrated color artists, but Antwaun promoted it much more effectively.”

Art nerd, part of the Crusades, Sargent wrote two books by black artists: “Young and Talented Blacks: A New Generation of Artists” and “A New Black Pioneer: Between Art and Fashion.” Collected in “Photos”. He continues to oversee the exhibition, publishing critical commentary on Kehinde Wiley, Alexandria Smith, Nick Cave, Amanda Williams and more.

Williams’ vibrant and colorful canvas show will be on display at Gagosian Space Park & ​​75 until July 8th. This is one of Sargent’s 10 projects this summer.

Williams’ trust in the curator has been around for many years. “Antowan sees the work I’ve done and feels why I organized things my way without having to talk about it,” she said. “I believe he knows my eyes.” She’s the latest in a series of artists and designers, but Sargent is on his Instagram @sirsargent, with nearly 100,000 followers. I am holding it and advertising it carefully.

But that’s not all. With close ties to the social and fashion world, he appeared in the front row of the Thom Browne and Gucci shows and stopped by the Bottega Veneta store, which opened in Soho last fall. Art is his metier, but he takes a comprehensive position. He is biased towards designers such as Grace Welsh Bonner, Prada’s Raf Simons, and Pier Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond.

He created a model for GQ and was recently discovered on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. He aspires to see his slender, 5-foot 11 frame and Kanye West, Megan Thee Stallion, photographer Tyler Mitchell (friend), and the Balenciaga show in the spring of 2023.

In the relatively calm of the Frankies, Sargent spoke fast with his finger tracing the arabesque in the air, recalling the highlights of the spring social season.

Earlier this year, while in Positano on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, he was invited to a party at the legendary Casa Malaparte House on Capri.

“I didn’t know how to get there,” Sargent said, saying he also looked like a “broken” writer. He rented a boat and uncertainly headed to the dock marked with just an arrow on Google Maps. “I had to keep telling myself,’It’s okay. I’m going to this crazy house where no one can go.'”

He rattled and enjoyed himself like a lucky kid. There was something amazing about him at night. “We had dinner on the rooftop and there was an opera song,” he said. “It was also the night I noticed.’Wow, this world. It’s not the world I was born in.'”

There were other moments that didn’t disappear. Sargent, who arrived in March at an Oscar after-party hosted by Madonna and her agent, entertainment mogul Guy Oceany, was struck by a star. Sean Combs, Jessica Chastain, Robert De Niro, Kim Kardashian, and “almost every name you can drop, they were there,” he said. Even the waiter said, “Wear a blonde wig like Madonna.”

He shook with the crowd and moved on to the party given by Beyonce and Jay-Z, but soon left at dawn to catch a plane to New York. He never missed an encounter with artist Rick Lowe that day.

Mr. Sargent developed a sense of his fierce commitment early on. Originally from Chicago, he grew up in the infamous Cabrini-Green Homes. “You know what the scenario was,” he said calmly. “Frankly, I know a lot of people couldn’t get out of it.”

He said part of what he did was due to his mother. His mother sent him to a Catholic school and succeeded in subsidizing his young ambitions while working at Walgreens.

“We were out of resources,” he said. But when he asked to participate in a student exchange program in Germany, his mother simply reassured him, “We will understand it,” and did not balk.

Succumbing to a foreign career, he enrolled at Georgetown University in 2007, volunteered for the Obama campaign, worked as an intern at Hillary Clinton, then accepted a Teach for America post in a violent classroom of 30 people. I taught reading and writing. -And Brooklyn, 5 years old.

“I woke up at 5:45 every day and took the C train to East New York, teaching, writing, partying during the day and doing everything a 21-year-old would do at night,” he says. I did. Bewildered by the world of art, he held a gallery round with his friend and housemate Jia Jia Fei, a digital strategist of art.

“We went to every possible show, every party, what’s going on,” Sargent said. “When I’m fascinated, I need to meet everyone. I need to read everything.”

He decided to contribute in some way. “Writing is like that,” he said.

He was upset at first. “No one likes to face a blank screen,” he said. However, neither taught a walk in the park.

“This wasn’t a little scenario on the Upper East Side,” he said. “You really had to believe in those kids to support them.” Like an artist, kids began to learn. They are the toughest critics. But if you are there for them, they know it. “

He is well aware that the world of art may not be solid. “We had a moment when black artists were dominant in culture, and a few years later they left,” he said. “If there is no structural change from the system, you have fashion and trends.”

He competed to catch up with his thoughts, the words that rushed in a salvo. “Yes, yeah, yeah, I want to make sure that this current enthusiasm for color artists is not just a moment,” he said.

“For me, it’s not a gallery director or a museum curator, it’s about figuring out how to get a company to invest in a creative community. It’s about writing, creating an exhibition. Doors for people of color. There are various ways to keep people open and push people forward. “

Serious but not solemn, Sargent paused halfway to submit a text from his friend Mitchell, who was asking for feedback on the silver eyeglass frames he was planning to buy. Mr. Sargent signaled his approval and then looked up and grinned. “Yes, I’m spinning a lot of plates in the air,” he said.

Does all that energy, partially supported by vegan protein and berry smoothies and cycling regimens, leave room for personal life? It seems that there is not much. He shares his apartment in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens district with Faye, who is often photographed with him at art world gatherings.

“We said it was a selfie of each other,” Sargent said.

They date back a dozen years. The apartment is large enough that one of the rooms doubles as a walk-in closet. Mr. Sargent said, “We have a lot of clothes,” without leaving any trace of embarrassment.

He remembers those years as a series of rough improvisational celebrations. “In our twenties, we held these crazy parties in our backyard,” he said. There was an improvised mini film festival. “I brought a blanket to my friend and asked him to show the movie on the wall.”

His recent schedule has little time for entertainment and much less romance. He recently ended his three-year relationship with a performance artist. “Finding balance is difficult in a relationship, especially when you are in a very productive moment in your career,” he said. “Now, I wish I had a moment when I could concentrate on my work.”

Still, he was going to rest. He betrayed a bit as he tried to leave for a long weekend at Golden Eye, a luxury resort on the north coast of Jamaica.

Do you want to disconnect? Well, that would be an experiment. “I haven’t taken four days off,” he said. “I’m afraid to stay much longer.

“I’m already thinking,’What the hell is that, what if I get bored?'”

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