Patti Astor NYC 80’s “Queen of The Downtown Scene” still makes headlines…
The Downtown underground film star debuted her first production “Patti Astor’s True Story” at the Sunscreen Film Festival this month. The short is based on her memoir “Fun Gallery..The True Story” regaling her adventurous life that led to opening the “most famous art gallery in the world” the Fun Gallery.
It was forty years ago in the fall of 1981 that Patti would open the small tenement storefront that “changed the art world forever”.
“Fun Gallery was an accident,” says Patti. “It was just a party that never stopped.”
“I was at Mickey Ruskin’s Supper Club ‘One University’ with Mudd Club pal Bill Stelling when he remarked “Patti I just fixed up my little studio as a Gallery. Do you know any artists?”
“Yeah I know plenty of artists half of them are crashing on my floor right now and I would love to get rid of them.”
The Fun Gallery was meant to be an artists’ gallery as opposed to the big white boxes down in Soho so Patti decided that each artist could come up with a name for the gallery for their show.
“Kenny came up with ‘Fun’ Gallery it was so stupid we let it stick. Fab 5 was next and wanted to call it the ‘Serious’ Gallery but I said ’Look Fred I don’t want to have to change the stationery every month.’”
It was Kenny’s first one man show and all we sold was one “Elroy Bug” drawing for $50.
His next show broke all the rules and records.
And Fun gallery appeared in People Magazine!
By his third opening Kenny was poised on the verge of international stardom here is the inside story from behind the scenes.
Excerpt from Patti Astor’s ‘Fun Gallery …The True Story’
Chapter 14: Fun & Fame, The Hottest Art Gallery in the World
The 1982-83 season was a peak year at the Fun Gallery. Every show was a block buster including those by Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf. Kenny’s installation started off with a huge fight with his evil Soho dealer Tony Shafrazi who had sent over his paintings. He informed me through an assistant he would be “handling” the sales for the paintings at the Fun!
I got right on the phone and informed him that this was Fun Gallery not Tony Shafrazi Gallery at which point he self-detonated “What do you mean??? I feel like this is the Fun Gallery in Soho!! All I hear is Fun Gallery, Fun Gallery I’m sick of it!!” He was screaming so loudly I thought he was going to have a fit. I hung up and called back his assistant and told her Tony needed to have an icebag on his head. Bill and I “handled” the sales.
When you had a really important show there was always a feeding frenzy. Dealers and collectors would want to be in “first” before the opening and the gallery would be filled with little knots of intrigue. For Kenny Scharf, it was like the Fulton Fish Market – maybe it was the beach theme and the sand on the floor. Six hours before the opening it was pouring rain and inside the gallery I was juggling three groups of people, each trying to pretend to ignore the others.
Two Italian dealers from Naples were there trying to beat me down in prices. Rich socialite Elaine Dannheiser was there, trying to find out what everyone else was buying and Estelle Schwartz, original Art World Barracuda, was there with one of “her collectors.” Estelle advised “her collectors” to spend the big bucks. As you know, she was one of my favorite people. Estelle’s collector was a perfectly coiffed little lady, mink coat and Enna Jetticks pumps, complete with a top of the line Mercedes-Benz with chauffeur waiting outside – the usual. I was rushing from one to the other in the Art World Version of “Let’s Make A Deal”. The Door, No The Curtain, $10,000 in cash!
Suddenly there was a tremendous BOOM! and CRASH! against the door – the entire building shook!
With my SDS background, I was convinced someone had thrown a bomb at the front door – probably Tony Shafrazi, my Soho arch-rival!!! I rushed to the door and opened it to be confronted by a huge pile of soaking cement and steaming rubble. Looking up I saw that it was just another piece of the Fun giving up the ghost -the heavy rain had caused the entire roof of the outside entrance to crash down. Six hours later there would have been 100 people standing there.
The Italian Dealers’ reaction was “Come now Mees Astor, let’s make it $7,000.” Elaine Dannheiser hadn’t moved. I was always convinced she could neither see nor hear but perhaps she felt the vibrations – let’s be kind and say she stood stunned. As for Estelle’s collector, she made a run for the door. Her EJ’s flashed over the ruins and she hit the back seat of the Mercedes in a record 8 seconds. Chauffeur James peeled off. Estelle turned to me with a scornful look on her face and said, “She’ll never be a real collector.”
Oh, and as for the hundreds of almost victims who crammed the gallery six hours later, the champagne flowed. We served individual splits of Henkell with a straw, for, you know, the beach theme. Clamoring over the hulking piles of dripping concrete, they cried, “Patti you always have the BEST installations!”
Patti Astor’s True Story will be soon be released worldwide on FB Live and Youtube, and introduced by Patti herself live from the “Pink Poodle Productions Christmas Party and Movie Screening.” Stay tuned.