My apartment and its collection are centered around work that was originally created on the Lower East Side of Manhattan 40 years ago, by Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowicz. Radical for their time, the work remains controversial, even today. I remain completely confounded by that.
I’m fortunate to call both New York and Los Angeles home and I consider both cities lovers of a different kind. I designed and built my L.A. home, in 2001, specifically to show my collection of pointed political and social art. As L.A. is an easy city, in many ways I required a home that was a kind of brutal fortress. Conversely, my New York home is a bit softer around the edges, almost genteel. It is an ode—in an odd, deviant way—to Sting’s Englishman in New York, that he dedicated to the British writer Quentin Crisp.
I’ve filled the apartment with an eclectic collection of objects from my travels—African textiles, books, and the layers lacking in my Los Angeles home. The art I collected for New York, however, is no less pointed. Surrounding the Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowicz works are contemporary pieces by Glenn Ligon, Julie Heffernan, Andy Diaz Hope, Dru Donovan, Wolfgang Tillmans, Bill Jacobson, and Karin Apollonia Müller.
Each of these artists continues, in their own way, the narrative started by Hujar and Wojnarowicz. It’s a dialogue speaking to isolation, segregation, incrimination, and rejection of “the other,” which is sadly as relevant a conversation today as it was in the late 1970s. That period for me carried its own isolation. As the gay teenage son of a Southern Baptist preacher growing up in a dusty, time-forgotten town in Texas, the world of Hujar and Wojnarowicz was as unknown to me as the deepest reaches of the cosmos. I learned of their world soon after coming out, but only after that moment had passed.