In 2015 I was living the writer’s nightmare, a piece about NYC real estate and art promised to this publication, deadline looming, and 3 dropout interviewees. I was strolling with a friend in Williamsburg, quite late one evening, and there was Rich on Metropolitan Avenue. I realized I could morph the whole article to be about his perspective, and he said YES! And there began the interview that became – Bedford Babylon.
It’s almost one year since Richard left up behind on this plane, with fantastical memories, our own potentials to be realized in his spirit, and some big shoes to fill…how are we doing?
— Linda DiGusta
How do you find words to describe a huge loss to a community of creative spirit? With thoughts that act as lifelines for the rest of us as we work to bridge the huge gap left by the departure of Richard Timperio.
Start by saying Richard was an artist. An artist who, spending his whole life immersed in the process, the business and the community, got it. And then took the most extraordinary measure of actually doing something about it.
What Richard got, in terms of the art crowd and probably by extension the whole world, is that we are in this together. Just watching him during the drop-offs and setups for his signature annual show of shows, and you knew this guy was there for the moment, and loving every minute of it. Because love is all that really matters, and if we don’t figure that out as artists, who will?
Richard had the rare gift of owning a larger than life presence that made others feel greater just by being in that presence. I will never forget the night Mark and I met him at a gathering after admiring his annual “cast of thousands” (as in actually around 500, but enough so there was no room for full first names on the flyer, and they eventually acquired the supertitle “Sideshow Nation”) group show and thinking – how do we get to be a part of this? And of course, when the conversation got around to that, Rich immediately suggested that we bring work for the next one, even though he had no idea in that moment what we were creating. But he did not just know art, he knew people, and could sense that our enthusiasm was about belonging.
Everyone talks about the brilliance of the on the spot design he came up with, year after year, for that group exhibition — a work of art in itself. And as with any great work, which Richard created in abundance in his studio, it led the viewer somewhere. In a digital age where it takes about an hour to retrofit an installation with a visual checklist, the Sideshow Nation remained without labels. You started at looking for something – your piece, or an artist you know — or at something that drew you eye first, and you were inexorably led to whatever was next to it. And while this seems a natural way to show and appreciate art, there are interpersonal forces acting against the possibility of experiences like this, to the detriment of everyone who loves and or makes art.
Altruism is the perfume of the creative class. Artists mainly profess to be progressive, inclusive, generous, and all about their fellow humans and a few other species. Especially when collectors and the media are in front of their work. Sadly, put other artists into the picture and Pollyanna often morphs into Ayn Rand. It has to be obvious to anyone who has been around art that the trajectory of the artist’s career has a direct connection to the relationship between the viewer and the art. Or it should. But in a system that throws scarcity into the mix on the one hand, and the ability of plenty of money to endow the appearance of resonance on the other, too many artists buy into the zero sum game of believing someone else can steal their success. Unless they fell under the Sideshow spell…
Transformative is the best word to describe the ripple Richard set in motion in the hearts and minds of those who experienced the energy that infused his passions. He made it too hard to hold onto ego-driven rules about competition and superiority, and so lovely to let go and be what you are – an artist. And even those casually walking into Sideshow for any exhibition, and seeing a level of creativity and mastery they had only seen in museums, left with their preconceptions about contemporary art forever changed
What is a legacy? Richard has now made another transformation by departing this physical plane, but he left clear and intentional directions for us to continue to re-define ourselves and re-shape our community, and eventually history, in the direction of the power of art itself to embrace and heal a world. It will be wise and rewarding to stay the course.