Karen Bookatz

It’s Warhol’s birthday on August 6th. How does he continue to impact contemporary art and pop culture on the whole?

Andy Warhol was integral in definitively changing the artistic landscape, trail-blazing the way for future generations of pop artists ranging from Hirst to Banksy, and so on.  Warhol was equal parts artist and businessman, and–without trying to sound like I’m elevating capitalism here–I think his story provides a good lesson to present-day artists seeking to “make it” and professionally do one’s respective craft.  Warhol once famously said, “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

How did you first get interested in contemporary art?

I grew up in Dallas, Texas, which, despite what some people may think, is a great city for art. My parents were really good about taking me to see art of all kinds at a very young age, at places like the Dallas Museum of Art and The Kimbell in Fort Worth, among other places. (Today, Dallas is a veritable stronghold of contemporary art with institutions like The Modern in Fort Worth, the Goss-Michael Foundation and The Nasher Sculpture Center, etc.) However, for me, it wasn’t until high school that I was faced with real, contemporary art.

It was the year 1997 that I took a class field trip to The Rachofsky Collection with my high school photography studio—and it was during this visit that I took in my first live and up-close Damien Hirst: a cabinet with jars of cow and sheep offal. I can still remember the excitement of its novelty for me at the time. The Richard Meier building, which houses the collection, and the in situ Richard Serras, too, were a revelation for me.

Having lived in Mexico what was your impression of the art scene there?

My most recent job—running all of the Marketing and Communications at Enrique Norten’s office in New York—landed me at the firm’s headquarters in Mexico City for five months during the latter part of 2011 up until the beginning of 2012. Norten’s office is located in la Condesa, a hip, vibrant and architecturally-rich neighborhood. La Condesa, along with nearby La Roma—which is comparably hip, if not hipper—together make up what I consider to be the real heart of the contemporary art scene in DF (local speak for Mexico City).

La Roma especially is filled with young people, artists, galleries, art events, etc. One of my favorite galleries in DF is OMR—which represents some amazing artists like Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Julieta Aranda—is located on the Plaza Rio de Janerio, one of the central squares of the neighborhood. OMR Gallery is very closely linked to Zona Maco, one of the most important contemporary art fairs in Latin America, that features galleries from all over the world. This fair has been critical to bringing international attention to Mexico City and getting people to actually come and visit the city, despite the precarious press the city—and country—has received in recent years.

However, if I had to chose two places outside of la Roma and la Condesa to take in some great contemporary art, it would have to be San Ildefonso in Centro—where I saw a great Ron Mueck show back in January—and MUAC,spectacular contemporary art museum, designed by the great Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon, located on UNAM’s campus in the South of the city.

An upcoming show you are excited to see?

I just saw the Kusama retrospective at the Whitney and was—quite literally—BLOWN AWAY! I can’t stop thinking about it. Kusama’s concurrent collaboration with Louis Vuitton down in SoHo is also rather remarkable. I also just saw the Rineke retrospective at the Guggenheim—another not-to-be-missed show, in my opinion. And if I could be magically transported to Paris before the end of September, I would definitely go see the Richter retrospective at the Pompidou. Rather obsessed with him. Oh…and if I could magically make my way to London sometime soon as well, I would definitely go see the Rachel Whiteread intervention at Whitechapel, along with the new Tanks program at the Tate Modern. Haha, and of course, I’ll plug an upcoming show that I’m co-curating with my good friend Carrie Mackin at QF Gallery in East Hampton that opens on August 4th entitled, I Don’t Have Time for This Sh&t, which was inspired by that, now-famous, Times article called “The ‘Busy’ Trap.”

Tell us about your experience with digital art.

I got into digital art really by accident. In fact, I owe whatever digital art awareness I currently have to my roommate / good friend, Julia Kaganskiy—Global Editor of The Creator’s Project—who, as an early adopter of New Media art, has been tuned into “this space” for several years now. Through a mix of curiosity and proximity, I started “poking my head” into what Julia was working on/looking at and started perceiving what I found to be some very interesting new threads in contemporary art. Eventually, Julia and I joined forces to create Blue Box Gallery, a mobile art gallery dedicated to the intersection of art and technology. With Blue Box, we curate shows, in addition to producing digital arts events. (Though, full disclosure, we’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, especially with me living outside of the country for five months.)

Do you live with any artwork at home?

I do. My roommates and I own two portraits that were done by our friend, artist Nic Rad. And we also have two paintings and a lithograph done by my dear friend from childhood, artist Gabbe Grodin. Also, I personally own a bunch of artwork—from paintings to charcoal drawings and even some marker drawings—by my great uncle, Samuel Bookatz, who was a decently famous AbEx painter who passed away about two years ago at the age of 99. An interesting fact about Sam: He was a presidential portraitist under FDR, and for two years, his studio was the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House. Kinda cool, no?!

Samuel Bookatz, painting murals for the U.S. Naval Hospital Corps School in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Comments are closed.