Arthur Weinstein is a photographer and artist who has recently been producing some impressive large silk screens of cultural icons such as Roy Cohn and George Gershwin. If you ever visit the Chelsea, you simply must see his large scale mobile on the tenth floor. Night time is best when it’s lit up by spotlights. In the year or so it’s been up, the mobile has already become one of the major attractions of the hotel; it’s becoming hard to imagine the skylight without it. Arthur is an intense man with a full head of coal dark hair and a brilliant, deadpan sense of humor. We didn’t get to ask him too many questions before he just started talking, discoursing knowledgeably and at length on several subjects at once (art, movies, artists, silkscreening techniques, night clubs, and the art business), as I scribbled furiously to get it all down. (Photo: Arthur's mobile)
D: How long have you been married to Colleen? Thirty years. The love of my life. We got married at City Hall. My dad was the witness. I used to be a fashion photographer. Most fashion photographers either look like an orangutan, or they’re gay. I’m not gay.
D: How long have you lived at the Chelsea? I lived here twice. The first time I moved in here I was a kid. There was a constant stream of fashion models coming through here. Agencies like Ford and Wilhelmina sent girls. No matter how beautiful a girl is, they have to find out if she’s photogenic. When we moved in [famous fashion designer] Charles James had the apartment across from us and it stunk to high heaven, like you wouldn’t believe. He had a dog with a thing on it’s head. We were in 611 then. I used to blast music and Stanley Bard would come into my apartment and tell me to turn it down. He never said anything to James.
D: Tell us about your art. The most important thing for an artist is to have flair. [Arthur leads us into the next room to show us an impressive large abstract by a painter named Chris Davis.] This guy is a great artist and he couldn’t sell this painting for $1500. How do you make money in art? People will give me a deposit on a painting, say $2000, but then they never pick up the painting, and never pay the rest. If you’d pay $2000 you’d think you’d be serious, wouldn’t you? Would you pay all that money and then not buy the painting? Would you even pay $20?
E: No, I might give you $5 to get rid of you, but $20 is really pushing it. Exactly.
D: So did you give the guy his deposit back?
Come on! Look at me. What are the chances of getting any money back from me? The guy didn’t even bother to ask.
D: How'd you get into silk screening? My father finally said get out of my house so I got my first apartment. I got a job at Panographic and worked there while I was going through school. I did all the silk screening for Pace Gallery. [Arthur talks at length on his silk screening technique, showing us various examples of his work.]
D: Did you know Andy Warhol? Andy used to love my wife, Coleen. But he was a cheap bastard, and he never said two words to me. Have you seen the big Mao in the Warhol show at the Gagosian annex on 21st Street? I silk screened it. (Photo: Arthur's myspace page)
D: I used to be roommates with Victoria Ruskin, Micky Ruskin’s daughter. Did you know Micky? I didn’t care for Micky Ruskin. He was cantankerous, and he never would let me in his club.
D: Who are some of your influences? [Arthur shows us a large photograph of Gordon Parks, hanging in his studio workshop.] Morris Lane, the guy who took that photo, put me on the phone one time with Gordon Parks. Now Gordon Parks is one of my idols, so I was really nervous. He has a brilliant voice, but I could tell the only thing on his mind was, “Oh my God, what does this guy want?” So I said, “Mr. Parks, I’m a big fan. Could I take that picture and do a silk screen of it?” And I could tell he was so relieved that that was all it was. He said, “Oh, go ahead. Sure thing. No problem.”
Finally, Arthur got sick of talking to us, so he called his friend Artie (proprietor of the Organized Crime Museum), who lives across the hall, and took us over to Artie’s apartment and left us in his care. On the way across the hall Arthur explained that the reason he went into art was that: “There’s all these assholes out there trying to give you orders, and the only one I want to take orders from is me.”
The artist Arthur Weinstein in his studio discussing a Lucas Samaras silkscreen.