Peter Nagy on Decades as an Artist and Dealer Both: ‘You Don’t Realize How Fast the Art World Can Spin on a Dime’

Installation view of “Peter Nagy: Entertainment Erases History” at Jeffrey Deitch, New York.GENEVIEVE HANSON/COURTESY THE ARTIST, JEFFREY DEITCH, AND MAGENTA PLAINS

Over the past four decadesPeter Nagy, whose iconic work of the 1980s is the subject of an exhibition at Jeffrey Deitch gallery in New York through August 15, has been both a successful artist and a successful commercial gallerist. Articulate about his own work and its influences, he’s also able to speak incisively about the art world of his time, especially its movements and its personalities, its palmy days and economic downturns.

Nagy’s own gallery, Nature Morte, now located in New Delhi, began in New York’s East Village in 1982, when Nagy and co-founder Alan Belcher opened on East 10th Street. The two had met while working at a Midtown print production house the year before, Nagy as a typesetter and Belcher doing paste-up and mechanicals. “The production house was on 57th Street,” Nagy told me, “and on our lunch hour we started going to galleries together. There were a lot more galleries on 57th Street in those days. That’s how our friendship started, and our tastes were similar. We were very into Piero Manzoni, Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana. In 1981, nobody was looking at art by those guys, so we bonded over that.”

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