The World According To Anthony Haden-Guest
His words have graced the pages of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Paris Review and Rolling Stone. On his long list of accomplishments: an Emmy for his documentary The Affluent Immigrants (sometimes less politely known as Eurotrash) for PBS. One of his greatest feats could be his book The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and The Culture of the Night. A noteworthy work not only because his writing is award-winning, but because he lived, survived and can even recall this 1970’s maelstrom of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Where is he now, what is he doing and who is on his dance card? Here’s a minute with this notoriously irreverent writer, cartoonist, reporter, art critic, poet and late-night champion on whom rumor has it Tom Wolfe’s character Peter Fallow was based for Bonfire of the Vanities. He spent real time with Jasper Johns, Basquiat and Warhol not just as a reporter but as a member of the New York art scene as it all gathered the steam that has given it the enormous business and cultural pulse it beats to today. His finger is still an important pulse oximeter: honest, sometimes scathing; yet ever eager to point to the importance and continuum of the artists’ dialogue over time. Legendary and sharp as ever, please meet Anthony Haden- Guest.
Olivia Daane: What are you doing right now?
Anthony Haden-Guest: I’m compulsively multi-tasking. Drawing and organizing. I think I need and like to be under pressure somehow.
What’s up next?
I’m putting together a multi-chambered show in New York. Lots of different narratives with the past and present characters of the art business.
What was it like back in the day?
Basically my lifelong career was in the golden age of magazines. You could write at length and get involved with deeply interesting things. We had the luxury of time (before tech and social media). Time is a melting glacier now. From an early age I was drawn into that life of the “Chelsea Set” in London. A mixture of artists, rapish upper-class types, crazy living…it was wonderful, it was perfect really. It’s still going on. Rock and roll ruled and movies were our visual language. But it has all gone up the anus of the internet.
What do you think of technology overall?
I don’t have the mental acuity for tech, but I love tech. When your laptop is behaving like a fretful baby, I worry where we will be if there’s a hostile takeover like in Godard’s Alphaville. The bad side of tech is there. Screen gazing is a technological slavery. AI will never have the human touch. Art has mystery in it. How about nature? I believe in a coming mass extinction. I look at nature with love and longing.
If you weren’t the art critic, poet and notorious party-goer, who would you be?
I would be a miserable loser. I cannot imagine finding any contentment or peace. You would know there was stuff in you that was swirling around in you unused.
What fuels you?
Luck. In my philosophy of new smart ass sayings: Life is like a hand of poker. You can’t control the cards you’re dealt. There’s luck. Take care of your luck.
Share a bit about the world of art and business which you also capture in your book True Colors: The Real Life of the Art World.
A good, long career is a rarity. Dali had 5 good years and then it was all about the money. You can buy a Picasso and you’ve moved 50 million from one place to another. It would be naive to think that’s not a part of it. But a lot of people ENJOY art. It has many qualities of religion. The lookers, the owners feel significant. It is like sucking in energy.
Who are the artists of the moment you most champion?
Liliane Lijn, Anthony James and Linus Coraggio. There are just too many artists!
On your bedside?
The Place of Dead Roads by William S. Burroughs, The Fate of a Gesture by Carter Ratcliff, Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1963 by Edward Sorel.
On your playlist?
Bluesy rock and roll with heart like Joe Cocker.
Haden-Guest not only writes the book on Art’s biggest party days, its business claws, its hottest stars, he moves in it and with it. He draws it - in frustration, in admiration and never in hushed tones. He knows its heart. He sees Art’s truest intent. He believes the lens is pure like the eyes of a child. He can tell when the story, the career, the body of work and its creator remain interesting. His pen and tone narrate this tale of art, “the world’s most dominant medium. We live in a world of pictures not words. Art is quick. We can drink it in quickly, get it quickly. I don’t think art realizes how to behave.” Neither does Haden- Guest. And that keeps him interesting like the rare, strong, long career.