It’s fair to say that before 1997, the blue chip art world had never encountered a dealer like Patrick Painter. That year, the Long Beach native opened his eponymous L.A. gallery with a riotous Harmony Korine spectacle, the outlaw antidote to more august operations like Gagosian, which had just set up a new big-box space in the city (and now represents Korine).
Likewise, the corporatized global art market, which boasted $67.4 billion in sales last year, may never see his likes again. The controversial gallerist went from selling acid for the Brotherhood of Eternal Love as a teenager to selling magazines door-to-door for a shady Canadian firm before (and after) college to selling insurance for MetLife to representing pioneering L.A. artists including Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, and Kenny Scharf after training under legends like Leo Castelli and Walter Hopps. For nearly a quarter century, Patrick Painter Inc. was an anchor at Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station, where the gallerist assumed the space of another renegade dealer, Burnett Miller.
But after the Westside art center’s original developer, Wayne Blank, left the complex in January 2018—taking the Bergamot Station name with him—Painter was left to deal with the more buttoned-up Worthe Real Estate Group. That arrangement wasn’t long for this world—certainly not after years of trading art for rent with Blank. Over the course of a single day in August, Painter literally pulled everything out of his space and set up shop in a courtyard Arts District space (formerly Garis & Hahn) at 1820 Industrial Street.
Notoriously scandalous, Painter once drove around town in a Versace Lamborghini dressed like a fourth Beastie Boy with briefcases full of contraband, then went radio silent for years after a spinal surgery, addiction issues, and a mass exodus of his blue chip roster. Last month, he opened up his new 3,000-square-foot space with a solo show for the Parisian-born New York-based painter Jérôme Lagarrigue.
“Chaz Guest introduced us and we hit it off,” says Lagarrigue, referring to another figurative artist in the current Patrick Painter, Inc. roster. Whereas Guest is known for his emotional, narrative-driven renderings of Buffalo Soldiers and Trayvon Martin, Lagarrigue’s paintings capture family members real, imagined, and embellished via heavy mark making, with expressionistic flurries of high chroma filling the voids of memory. Both artists are part of the Painter’s recent push into figuration.
Lagarrigue adds, “It felt great because I’ve I’ve dealt with a lot of dealers but never someone who knows so much about art. I just like the way he thinks; it’s not a power trip.”