from Page 1)
MSG: What was the answer?
SL: There was always something inside, so powerful,
to let me know it was going to okay. Because basically,
when you think about it I didn't know anything else,
I had no education, I dropped out of school in tenth
grade when they sent me back to Haiti. When I came
back to New York I was too old to go to high school.
So I would just go buy books and paint and learn.
I am blessed, even with everything that is going
on right now, I am really blessed.
The more and more I learn and see the life of a
true artist, you know you must go through these things
in order to create. With what I am going through
right now, at first I was pissed, I was very, very
angry especially with the landlord. But now, I see
it as a blessing. I see it now as a motivation to
get to the next level.
MSG: It definitely is a test but I have no doubts
that you are going to pass this test. I do want to
talk about the vision of this space. I know this
used to be a parking garage. I want to know when
you had it in your mind that you wanted your own
gallery and why did this parking garage talk to you?
SL: Well, I should mention that this is my second
gallery, my partner and I had another one in the
Poconos. It was always a dream. It was like Basquiat
when he used to look in the window at gallery exhibits
and think "that should be me!" When I first
came here, in my heart I thought I was ready but
I was not ready in all the other ways you have to
be. It was very hard, my surroundings were very negative
from my family. I used feel like "why should
I be an artist?" I felt sometimes like it was
something bad, that no one could understand me. You
don't make money. You don't belong. So I said okay,
so now what do I do. So I went to galleries. Knocked
on doors only to have them slammed in my face. I
remember I used to come to Manhattan with one token,
I didn't even know how I was going to go back. I
wouldn't even buy a bottle of water.
Before we decided to go to the Poconos we had a
small studio space and we really couldn't pay the
rent. We would go out and get food but we had no
electricity so we would have to keep the food outside.
Then we got a message from the universe to go to
MSG: And there is a viable arts community in the
SL: Oh yeah, a lot! I'm telling you that is the
best thing that happened to me. We opened a gallery
in the back of someone's store and the next thing
we know we opened our own and we knew it was time
to come to New York last year. I said I have no doubt
in my mind, I said I am ready for New York.
I went to Brooklyn first,
to Park Slope but it was very expensive. I got
myself an agent. The agent
actually found out about this place and he said well,
it is a parking garage but from what you told me
of your history you can do it! So when I got here
I said "this guy must be crazy!" I said "are
you kidding me?!" And he said "well, you
know, you can fix it up, it's not going to be too
expensive." I said let me keep looking and I
will get back in touch. So we started negotiating
back and forth and then I found a space in SoHo.
The day that I was going to sign the lease for that
space the agent called me, I hadn't heard from him
in two weeks. He said he had negotiated a deal and
wanted me to come and meet the landlord. I walked
in with $10,000 in my pocket and we negotiated a
MSG: Where does $10,000 come from? Was that from
the blood and sweat in the Poconos?
SL: Actually that money came from somebody, just
like you guys, who came walking into the gallery.
She said, "Wow - look at this place!" We
have been very close ever since. I was telling her
about my dream. It was never about the money.
Artist: Kob Thanapat
MSG: It's about the passion.
SL: Yes, it's about the passion and helping other
artists, that's what we are doing. So, I got the
money - it was what we made in the Poconos, that
friend and my sister. So we negotiated, he told me
what he would do and I believed him. I said I must
really be crazy! But, everything I do I always pray
about it. I let the universe decide. I say I'm not
doing this, it's not my choice. You decide where
ever you want me to be that is where I am going to
MSG: Well, there is definitely a reason you came
here. There is a definite reason for your being in
this space. You are not staying here, but there was
a reason you were brought here.
SL: I believe so.
MSG: Knowing some of the legal issues that came
up with the lease and the landlord - without turning
this into a legal story - do you feel that you have
learned from it so that you are safeguarded that
that will NEVER happen to you again?
SL: Oh you can bet on that! When you think about
it, one of the lessons that I have learned is that
I am not going to rent another place - I am going
to buy. If you ask me "do you have the money?'
I will tell you "No, I don't have the money."
MSG: That's not the issue.
SL: No, the same way that I got here is the same
way I am going to get the building because I truly
believe that when you look at the place - the work
that was done in the place is incredible. Forget
about the money because nobody can pay for something
like this. I learned you should have your own After
all this experience I know that last year was the
time for me rent my space and open my gallery and
this year is the time to have my own building. To
open a cultural center for everybody - whatever your
MSG: I want to hit on that for a moment. When we
first walked in here you referred to this place as
a cultural center, more than just an art gallery.
What does that mean to you?
SL: One of the greatest things that happened since
I was born and everything that I went through is
knowing more and more "Why." I think the
universe was teaching me about life, how you should
always be giving even when you don't have. That's
the only way you are going to make it. Making it
for me, I don't just see money. Making it for me
is you coming back into my gallery. I am sitting
here talking with you right now, basically strangers...but
we are not really strangers. You come in, I don't
see you as white and I am black. As an artist, the
beauty of a true artist, is to accept whatever the
universe sends to you. Other galleries, I remember
when I was trying to get a break, they would look
at me and say you are black, you have an accent,
you don't belong.
MSG: So even within the art community you experienced
that kind of discrimination?
SL: Yes, of course, "You don't belong." Even
when people walk through that door into my gallery
and they see a black man they think "Oh, everything
must come from Africa." So, the cultural part
of this gallery is that I am Haitian, I have all
kinds of friends, I have a home in Asia - so that
brings the whole world together. So when people assume
this all comes from Africa, I laugh because my job
is to trick their mind. To say "Okay, you think
this comes from Africa. Why do you think that? Because
I am black?" We have many Asian artists who
happen to do this kind of work. This gallery is not
just about painting. It is about music, films, spoken
word - is about the arts in general.
MSG: I know downstairs you do readings...
SL: Poetry readings, drum sessions, dancing, everything.
If you come to me and say you have something you
really want to do, I will be more than happy! Because
I will be the only gallery in Manhattan that is truly
multicultural and multi media. When you go to most
galleries they are very traditional. White walls,
stark light, they are not particularly welcoming.
When people come here I want them to feel like they
can't get enough! There is so much from all over
Page 1 | 2 | 3