An Art-World Lion Finds a Den in a Midcentury Landmark

An Art-World Lion Finds a Den in a Midcentury Landmark

In the studio with the painter Peter Halley as he prepares for his “punky” and personal installation in Manhattan’s Lever House.

By Julia Felsentha for The New York Times - 14 Septembre 2018

Walk into the artist Peter Halley’s sprawling West Chelsea studio and the first thing you’ll notice is a massive plaster cast replica of an ancient bronze sculpture of Poseidon, procured from the Athens archaeological museum a decade and a half ago. He — Poseidon, not Halley — stands nude and musclebound on a rolling platform, arms outstretched like a surfer, hovering in front of a shelf of fluorescent paints. “I never meant to leave it here, but it’s just so perfect,” says the painter, gazing fondly at the Greek god looming overhead. One time, a snooty European collector visited and snarked that Cy Twombly kept actual antiquities in his studio. The artist chuckles. “I was like: ‘I’m not Cy Twombly.’ ”

Halley, 64, a born-and-bred New Yorker, lion of the ’80s East Village art scene, publisher of Index magazine (now defunct), and former director of Yale’s prestigious M.F.A. painting program, is standing beside a model of his newest project, an ambitious site-specific installation at Midtown Manhattan’s Lever House. Bespectacled, fingers flecked with sherbet-colored paint, he’s soft-spoken and impish, with a bone-dry sense of humor and an aversion to self-glorification. He models himself after Andy Warhol — “everything I know about the construction of culture I got from him” — and subscribes to the Warholian notion of the artist as an “everywoman or everyman, a person who does something that we all could do, but for some crazy reason wanted to go out and paint white paintings, or whatever.” (This may be why he proudly displays his own portrait by Warhol above the studio’s toilet.)

Peter Haley New York Times