1980s Art Star Donald Sultan Reflects on His Career


Donald Sultan is promoting a travelling show of his paintings from the 1980s which has prompted Adam Lehrer to interview the artist for Forbes. A small part of the conversation dwells on Sultan’s career trajectory:

Adam Lehrer: Studio 54 founder Steve Rubell one said, “Art stars of the ‘80s were like the rock stars of the ‘60s or the fashion designers of the ‘70s.” Basquiat, Schanbel, Haring, you. Art stars now feel like their fame is limited to the art world. But you guys were widely known by anyone reading magazines back then. Was it strange to have such fame thrust upon you?

Donald Sultan: No, it probably affected me but it didn’t feel strange. It was just what I was doing and it was a small world. A lot of people did well. Most people that are known now are known through branding. It’s really about money. The value of art is how much it’s valued at art auction houses. The auction houses didn’t even sell contemporary art until Mary Boone and Saatchi started manipulating the market and holding auctions for younger artists and as a result jacking art prices way up. That created a monster.

Adam Lehrer: (laughs) You showed with Mary Boone, correct?

Donald Sultan: I did, that was my first gallery. I left her for the Willard Gallery. It was probably a business mistake, but I went with them because I thought they really had terrific artists at the time. But they weren’t great dealers. So I left and joined Blum Helman which was a terrific dealer. I always liked uptown. I never showed in SoHo again after Mary’s. And I never showed in Chelsea until recently. I don’t like Chelsea.

Iconic Painter Donald Sultan Shows Seminal 1980s Works, The Disaster Paintings, On National Tour (Forbes)