Interview Nassau 14/5/2021 11:40 P.M
So how does it look on the spot, dear San Damon ?
Well, there are still people left. I wouldn't say that in the heat of the moment. We've been working on this incredible project for a little over a year now, and as always, when everything is done, we're almost into something else
Is it still an achievement ?
How many guests were there, a little over 800 ?
No, according to security, 650.
What interests me is to know how you live this kind of crazy thing at not even 50 years old, to have a museum completely dedicated to you ? Even if you've had works in different museums for a few years now, like in Quebec, Belgium, France, Portugal, Luxembourg, etc. But this is your own
To you, to you, not the house (laughs). What is important for me is that here, in a place as crazy as this, there are all the facets of my creation. All areas are represented here.
How many square metres of exhibition space ?
A little over 800 square metres and 1500 square metres if you count the outdoor park where it is possible to hold temporary exhibitions. As far as the museum is concerned, I must say that I live it well. You know that luck is an essential priority in this kind of project.
When I invented Oniroscopism, I had the crazy but playful idea of establishing stages. To have works in different museums before 40, done.....To have a sculptural work in a public place abroad, outside my country before I'm 45, done....To have a Museum like this before I'm 50, done, just barely, but done.
The chance ?
One of my first collectors, Oscar Bernstein, was fascinated by the different facets of my creation, photography, sculpture, literature and poetry, music, contemporary dance etc. He wrote a book three years ago on these axes. San Damon - Oniroscopism or the 32 shades of melancholy. It so happens that at the end of 2019, I was working on this museum project in Como, Italy, but there we were talking about a state museum, with all the administrative difficulties that entails and the flip-flops of political opponents, etc. There was talk of a prize, via a jury, for photography, etc.....The setting up of the museum involved an investment of at least one million euros for the city.
The appointment of a curator, a curator... Finally a headache on details sometimes grotesque. And here is the chance, the epidemic blocks us in Switzerland, my wife and I, at our friend Oscar's and Brian Wilbanks....arrives. The first day, a walk, the second day tennis, I'll skip the steps and two hours before he finds a small plane to Paris, I talk to him about Como, which I'm going to give up, it bores me, we're haggling with paper-pushers. Anyway, he explains to me that he's just finished building yet another house to make it a sort of temple dedicated to literature, this completely crazy guy, and I've seen it with my own eyes, owns more than fifteen thousand books.
His partner in the business died three months ago and he absolutely wanted to keep their project alive. He must have known my work, Oscar has some in his bathroom. We finish the conversation and he says, I'll call you in two days. It's the kind of conversation you have in a nightclub that the next day is meaningless, but it's daylight and the guy is sober (laughs).
Early in the evening, so six-seven hours later, he calls me : give me your email address, I'll send you some photos, tell me what you think. Around midnight, I get the pictures of what you see here. It's not too hard to fall under the spell, especially since he is, like me, direct and tells me: everyone has to find their way around..... If time can be counted in less than a second, you can say I've been thinking (laughs). Brian, like Oscar, are true patrons of the arts, not businessmen, but businessmen.
The pool... are you going to do something with it ?
Well, I thought about it, because here, you know, having a pool is more for soaking your feet, you've got the ocean at 40 meters and the Gulf of Mexico on your left.
Especially since the neighbourhood is full of Hollywood stars,your direct neighbour,Brian told you ?
Yes, but I haven't seen him yet and it's not really my thing, unless the guys aren't playing around. In 2013, a few months before his death, I met Philip Seymour Hoffman in a restaurant in New York, at the same time as I took the series of photos that were used for the jewellery series, and that you can see on the first floor. He had seen a series of nude photos that I had done and he stood in front of me and said I am......
I thought I detected a bit of smug pride, but I hasten to say that this is not the case, in retrospect, he was simply a shy guy and he had a bit of difficulty approaching people he didn't know, in short, I got even closer to him, especially as he was quite small, I said to him: I am San Damon. We both burst out laughing and spent ¾ of an hour chatting on a stool at the entrance of the restaurant.
So if Alec shows up and he's nice, everything will be fine ?
(laughs) I could tell you were itching to give names, I'm all for discretion, really.
But it's bloody true, there are no pictures of you anywhere !
I believe in that old adage...Let's live happily ever after.....
OK, but you also know that it's an open secret that the neighbourhood is infested, dare I say it, with stars and real ones !
Allison explained to me that, like her, they were fed up with living in Florida, especially in Palm Beach, so they crossed the water to come here, it's true that it's a real shame.
How long have you been here ?
I first came last summer and now I've been here for a week.
By the way, Allison Rosenberg is the curator of the San Damon Museum ?
That's right. She's a good friend of Brian's and, like him, she's also a mad literature buff. She speaks perfect Spanish, which is useful here, and fortunately, very good French.
Which allows me to mix English, bad Spanish, Portuguese, you know why, and excellent French anyway.
Which results in a soup ?
A real, good soup (laughs)
So let's talk about the Museum ? Everyone was impressed by the Circle S, and it's Allison who is in the photo that serves as a reference for the Museum's website ?
Well no, that's the neighbour across the street, you can't tell, because she doesn't look anything like her.
The S Circle, huge set-up, months of work.....No, I'm kidding, when I arrived last summer, this is the piece that first caught my eye, I immediately said to myself, we have to do something surprising with it. In fact, it was the old garage. We broke up the stones on the edge to make it rougher, we partitioned the walls and with the remote control, yeah, you turn around my works, the effect is guaranteed especially in a semi-darkness. That's why at the entrance, what you think is a garage is the Magenta Box, it's an outbuilding that has just been finished.
I think you wanted to give the rooms somewhat surprising names ?
For those who remain classic, yes, otherwise I don't think so. The nickname of the San Damon Museum is the "Manor", and even if I deal with a lot of disciplines in my Oniroscopism, photography remains the first of them. Do you know what a darkroom is ?
Well, you see, I hadn't made the connection. Mind you, I find it not only original, but also very appropriate !
So they sleep and let themselves be watched in rooms. This is also why, as in many museums, the rooms are left as bare as possible.
Tell me, the Dream Box ?
Fourteen orders, this evening alone.
Well, yes, nothing else to say, it speaks for itself. You enter these rooms and you are in my creation, in my Oniroscopism. What's great is that you can, via the dimmer, give variations to the rendering of my work, which is really what I wanted. You go from opacity to transparency, 0% - 25% - 50% - 75% - 100%.
And the price ?
That's for people like your friend Alec !
Especially since it's geared towards his garden (laughs)
Well, drop your keyboard and go ring his doorbell ? (laughs)
Brian Wilbanks and Allison Rosenberg join us
Brian : can the supporting cast join you or is it just the star ?
Gordon : how can you turn down someone who's holding a bottle of champagne.
Brian : you don't have to write it, but it's a big hit, I spent two months getting everyone to buy, but people want to buy.
Allison : we're all resurfacing, and the place is enchanting and San Damon's work has a place here. San Damon is really a package deal. Oniroscopism is not only works but it is the thought of one man.
Brian : it's important today to have a whole concept of thought around a work, even a single work, to make it understandable, without blabla and pretence. Just an extraordinary artist who is capable of such a feat.
Allison : There's a gentleman who offered to buy the scores of the Oniroscopic Symphorapsody, there's no need to sell that, but you see, that's an example. And that's because San Damon is an entity.
San : I think it's also because people who love art have had more than enough of seeing so-called works where you need a lexicon to grasp its meaning. Obviously you need a lexicon since there is nothing to say about it.
Brian : a gallery owner friend of mine in New York told me 25 years ago, I sell refrigerators, full stop, crap called "works" and I pretend to believe it. People who make collectives or people who abound everywhere shouting to whoever will listen, especially on social networks, the worst thing that exists, here I am, I am the new Van Gogh.
It's all over the top stuff. Recently, I saw overturned bins in a "pseudo gallery", symbolising consumer society, clocks with nails blocking the hands to evoke time. It has become grotesquely childish and pointless. An overturned pissoir in 1919 was a breakthrough in art, today it is ridiculous plagiarism.
And since there is no, or almost no, new creation anymore and everything is equal and must be quantified, they intellectualise a lot of nonsense. I want to put money into something that above all pleases me, that makes me happy, coming from an artist, not from an art animator.
Allison : In Palm Beach, all the collectors I know and famous collectors, guys who fly halfway around the world to see one painting, tell me they're jaded. So they sell or put these "works" in safes, which is distressing and above all a shame. But here, we are happy.
Gordon : San, I would like to talk to you about S.O.G. I see in the museum the metal sculptures and the stone ones, transposed as paintings ?
San : What I like about the metal ones is what they do in daylight or artificial light too
Gordon : their shadows !
San: their shadows. The one on a roundabout in Portugal fascinates people because of the orientation I decided on. I stood there on the spot at different times of the day. It literally plays with the sun, it reflects back to it the passing of time, the running of time.... if that doesn't remind you. (3D magenta letters are fixed on the first step of the Museum "The race of time"... A theme that is dear to San Damon, as much in his photographic, sculptural as in his musical and of course literary works)
Gordon : but not only the time characterised by the hours, but also that of the seasons ?
San : of course, and even, and almost especially, if I may say so, at one of my favourite times of the day, the blue hour, because there, SOG, my Danonaselo, seems to go in all directions at once, but in a different way. The combination of the fading sunlight and the city lights shows us an elegant Danonaselo, lying in the flowers and plants that surround it, and its more massive, short twin on a uniform concrete floor.
Gordon : A few kilometres away there is a road sign indicating the location of your sculpture, your Danonaselo. Apart from the rarity of the thing, why does it say "a work by San and Melodie Damon" ?
San : because Melodie is my wife and the head of the character was drawn by her. Of course, I wouldn't have demanded that her first name be put next to mine if it hadn't been my wife, but the important thing, the very essence of what SOG is, comes from his face. He has no mouth, no eyes, no nose, the emotion he evokes, his direction of movement, his, or his intentions are essentially due to the curvature of his hat that crosses his face.
It is the detail that makes the rest of the work possible. It is also for this reason, and here I also come back to the light, that I asked the photographer who took the photos in the museum to take SOG with a flash, not always but also, because doubling SOG by his own shadow refers to all his particularity.