Leah Oates: What is your family background.
Paul Bridgewater: My family is ‘Merican, ‘Merican, ‘Merican!…Here a long time! (Southern accent) English, French, Black, Italian, German, Mexican and probably a lot of other things…muts!
LO: Did you always know you would be a gallerist?
PB: Me and my friends were artists. They were clueless, so I started organizing events to showcase us. Then an artist I told had little talent put a curse on me and here we are.
LO: You have been a gallerist in NYC in the hey day of the NY art scene. What are your impressions of that time and was it truly better then?
PB: They were better times in the fact that anybody could open a gallery … like the old movie’s, “My father has a barn, let’s do a play.” And actually people bought things just because they were beautiful and you wanted art to improve your house. Now they buy them because “they’re important”—or an investment. Humbug!
LO: You currently have a show open called Round Hole, Square Peg which explores aspects of the LGBT community. Please tell us more about Round Hole, Square Peg and what kind of responses is the show getting?
PB: The show is meant to explore new relationships…new ways of being comfortable in your skin. We challenged artists to redefine Queer intimacy, what it was like coming out or living in hiding or finding you were in the wrong skin. We’ve mostly gotten extraordinary support from everyone, saying it is one of the most beautiful shows they’ve seen on the subject.
We’ve also gotten a few detractors, who screamed and said they hated us.
We actually had a large bag suddenly appear right after someone said they were going to fix us and we thought it was a bomb. Luckily, it was a bag of books.
LO: Please tell us about the artists that you represent i.e. what their work is about, their media
etc., and how you discovered their work.
PB: Our official mantra is “Kooky, Kinky, Genius!” So, if it’s something that’s wildly interesting, uses the medium in a different way, shows you something you’ve never seen before, and makes you think innumerable times about what and why it is—you’re probably speaking our language.
LO: What does it take to be a successful gallerist and how do you select your artists?
PB: The first question I asked when teaching my course The Art Business…”How do you make a small fortune in the Art Business? Start with a big one.” I think I addressed my process for selecting artists in the last question.
LO: What advice would you give artists who want to approach galleries for shows?
PB: Visit galleries and find your fit. Go back and try to make yourself known to the staff. Then ask their procedure for submissions. Gone are the days of unsolicited slides.
LO: Do you think galleries look for innovation or follow trends in NYC?
PB: I can only hope galleries are looking for innovations. Following trends is much like wearing labels … great for the general public, but not what the people who are supposed to be defining culture should concern themselves with.
LO: What projects and show do you have coming up in the future at Smart Clothes Gallery?
PB: My next show SUBurban will be very exciting and is trying to show how urban planning isn’t about making cities better and how the sprawl of cities and suburbs is out of control and destroying our sense of self, individuality, and environment.
And “Not Clowning” takes a look at The Clown in all of their facets, from the simple and innocent Pierrot to the absolutely scary clown from Cindy Sherman to John Wayne Gacy.