Terrence Sanders in front of Jean Michel Basquiat’s and Andy Warhol’s former studio on Great Jones Street NYC 2016
Najee Dorsey: OK, first things first. I know you as the Publisher of Artvoices Magazine, Curator of 60 Americans, Artvoices Art Books, the Makeshift Museum where you hosted your own mid-career survey in Los Angeles, two art clothing lines Artists 101 & Art Thug now Platform Art Fair, Art Book Fair and Film Festival to be held in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Did I leave anything out?
TS: You forgot to mention my art app titled Art 24/7. (laughter) seriously I have a very strong work ethic that was instilled in me by my mother. I’m a native New Yorker circa 1967, African American, and a believer of three truths my family holds to be self-evident: my grandfather beat Jesse Owens in a race outside a bar in Louisiana, my granduncle Reginald Matthews is a retired New York State Supreme Court Justice and my great great-grand uncle was at one time the oldest man in America and was an alleged member of the infamous ‘Billy the Kid’ gang.
I have a lot to live up to.
NJ: That’s what’s up.
TS: I live by a code of respect for my ancestors. They endured too much suffering for me to be disrespectful.
NJ: Platform is a major undertaking, Why is this project so important to you?
TS: It wasn’t my ambition to create an art fair but I felt it was my responsibility. I’m thankful for the opportunity because only when (we) are in position of power can we gain respect to influence and be a catalyst for change.
I’d rather be in the mountains with my lady and daughters fishing but this art fair is a necessity for the artist survival.
“Their respective personal collection is the very definition of their character and art they can’t live without. It’s not only for ‘status’ and or ‘investment’ but self-gratification and art history.”
NJ: Good for you. You have a tremendous sense of service, pride and commitment. It’s honorable in this day and age of every man for himself.
TS: Post Trump. Life is serious and hard as hell. I love this quote by Martin Luther King, JR: ‘If a man hasn’t found something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.’ Doesn’t get any realer than that.
NJ: No doubt. Staying the course you’re hosting Platform which is an art fair, book fair and film festival for 3 days at the Brooklyn Expo (60,000 square feet) you secured the services of James MacDonald from Platform International who builds a majority of the top fairs Worldwide. This passion project has to be costing you a small fortune. Talk about the financial commitment it takes to pull this off right.
TS: For the most part it’s out of pocket but I’m a gambler. NOW is the time to elevate the status and collectability of necessary emerging, mid-career and mature artists; Establishing a collector base for important work, investing monetarily in a market that has potential for real growth not based entirely on speculation.
We need to provide access to under recognized and under represented artists. No one making great art should have to suffer monetarily.
That being said, 90% of the business that happens in the art world takes place at an art fair. I want influence on what is deemed important, relevant and collectable; especially within my focus-emerging, mid-career and mature artists.
NJ: What role does the Collector play at Platform contemporary art-fair and in the development of emerging, mid-career and mature artists?
TS: A very important one because the collector is the glue that binds all aspects of the art world to every day life. Their respective personal collection is the very definition of their character and art they can’t live without. It’s not only for ‘status’ and or ‘investment’ but self-gratification and art history. Some collections are understandably more important than others but all are relevant.
A high percentage of Platform artist have trajectory. I’m not selling a mission statement, a marketing strategy or a get rich scheme this is ‘for artists by artists’ and the greater good.
Michelle L. Elmore ‘Untitled’ Color Photograph 2005
There are too many derivative works being marketed as ‘masterpieces’ in the market. Nothing proven, no experience, and no unique voice. Too many ‘fair weather’ artists making a living off comparisons and historical references without an identity of his or her own making. Arguably when these so-called ‘masterpieces’ price points start to decline the artist credibility, merit and validity come into question.
An example of this culture is the new ‘New York School’ of artists a/k/a Andy Warhol’s children and now grandchildren who are demented, decadent and infantile. You can’t tell me that supporting a breed of disrespectful and disingenuous artists is beneficial and enlightening to our community. New and old collectors could shift the paradigm. Support the children of Diego Rivera, Elizabeth Catlett, Charles White, Barbara Krueger, Carrie Mae Weems, Jenny Holzer and Frank Stella.
In retrospect Donald Trump will be known as the darkest period in American Politics. In that regard so will the last generation of so-called art stars. All filler no substance.
NJ: What would be your advise for a young and or older artists navigating the art world?
“It’s not healthy to romanticize about the art world because it’s a business.”
TS: Always be about the work. Don’t create art to make money or to become famous. Don’t waste your time. Make art because you have been given a gift to articulate your opinions and feelings with a visual dialog. Never be afraid of subject matter and timely work. Don’t be a poser or weekend warrior regurgitating what has already been done. Collectors, real artists and art professionals can see right through you. You’re not fooling anyone but yourself.
It’s not healthy to romanticize about the art world because it’s a business. As an artist you’re constantly in search of the right collector with the right connection to museums and auction houses. I’m hopeful that a percentage of Platform’s audience will be collectors unwavering in commitment taste and intellect-not influenced by bias, class or education. Great art educates, inspires and evokes. Platform’s ‘focus’ is great art from independent contemporary artists who have been invited to participate based solely on their merit.
Mark Harris ‘Untitled’ Mixed Media on found Wood. 2014
NJ: Drop a few names of artists who will have work exhibited at Platform?
TS: Guggenheim fellowship winner Jefferson Pinder’s piece ‘Passive/Resistance is in the 60 Americans exhibition at Platform. The great photographer Jamel Shabazz who’s in the Smithsonian Permanent collection and many other important collections is exhibiting 3 monumental pieces. David Gamble who documented Andy Warhol’s apartment immediately following his death is restaging a booth as Andy Warhol’s apartment at Platform. I’m so excited to see all the work exhibited together.
I’m the connective tissue. I curated a great show across the board that transcends color. Investing my time, money and sweat equity in our voice.
NJ: I believe this fair is going to be something very special.
TS: Platform is a collective of like minds and a catalyst for change. A movement where artists can build a collector base through exhibition, networking and discourse. Where independent artist are recognized and celebrated not pigeon holed.
NJ: Let’s talk about the ‘gatekeepers’ in the hierarchy of the Contemporary Art World?
TS: Make no mistake there are many ‘fiefdoms’ and gatekeepers. There’s a relevant sub-culture to the art world. I represent one of them and you represent another and the list goes on and on with changes rapidly. We have created multiple platforms to assist artists in navigating this ‘mind fuck’ of an existence as an artist.
NJ: Any negatives.
TS: Yeah the ill-will that that comes out of some people’s mouths. An artist friend of mine who I invited to participate in Platform informed me that she mentioned my art fair to a dealer in Italy and he told her to not be concerned with an ‘unimportant’ art fair.
I can’t get it that statement out of my head.
The privileged! What this euro-trash fails to understand is that (we) create ‘by any means necessary’ for the people not for monetary gain at the whims to flipper collectors, interior decorators, and drug dealers. A majority of us are in it for all the right reasons but honestly most of you are not.
What’s important to me might not be important to you and vice versa. We can agree to disagree. I don’t contribute to the landscape of contemporary art to maintain the status quo. I entered into this business of art with expectations that we not only survive and educate, but also prosper.
NJ: Bruh I can’t wait! They say build it and they will come.
TS: I’m not sure if that statement’s still relevant. There are so many choices. Greatness disguised as genius is often categorically left out of the conversation. Or worse, not enough ‘likes’ to be important and or relevant.
Najee, thank you for allowing me to keep it real and not sugar coat the truth. I want to personally thank your readership for taking the time to hear me out about Platform Art Fair. My life work is a reflection of my passion, love, and commitment to humanity.
“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.” – Socrates
NJ: No, thank you brother and keep on pushing…