Thursday, October 15, 2015

Adventures in Life: Peter Max

Artist, Peter Max

People always love to drop names. On social media, friends are always posting about the famous they encounter. As I get older, I recognize fewer of the names. It's always fun to meet people who are well known. There was a time when meeting even smaller stars was a thrill for me. In college and beyond, I spent six years working concert security. I've met so many stars, I began a binder to keep track. They are mostly from the world or music, but I've also met quite a few movie and TV personalities and people from the political world.

Of course, my biggest rock star moments have been those shared with Stevie Nicks. I've shaken her hand a few times and once, at a fund raiser, where I paid $1000 for a ticket, I was able to have a meaningful conversation with her parents.

I enjoy conversing with the famous. I spoke to Dire Straits front man Mark Knopfler once about fireworks. I spoke to Jimmy Buffet about roller coasters and Margaritas. When Jon Bon Jovi needed a ride to the Houston Galleria, I drove him in my car. I kept myself from laughing when talking to Al Gore because his accent was just like the Saturday Night Live parody. I met George H.W. Bush and spoke to Barbara Bush as she signed her autograph for me.

Similar to my first Peter Max
Nearly 20 years ago, I discovered an artist by the name of Peter Max. I loved his bright colors, smart meanings and bold style. I attended an auction and outbid someone on his art. Afterwards, the failed bidder approached me and offered double what I had paid, as she decided she just had to have it. More than anything, it was her lust for the piece that told me to hang on to it. A few years later, at yet another auction, I acquired a second piece of his work. Soon, I was an official collector with 5. He is, without doubt, my favorite artist.

It was late. We were cruising to Lima, Peru at 36,000 feet and I was bored. I grabbed a magazine to peruse and came across an ad listing a meet the artist, featuring Peter Max. It's said what the Beatles did for music, Peter Max did for the art world. A slight “squee” may have escaped my lips as I looked to see what city this would occur in. Lo and behold, it was in Houston...for the very day I was to return from Lima...just two days away! Fate.

I arrived at the Galleria Mall early, expecting a line. The gallery was still closed and dark, and there was no line, so I went for a bite to eat. Mom called to check in on me and I told her what I was doing, saying I hoped he'd be free to just approach and speak to, as opposed to him sitting at a table and signing pieces of art. I doubted the former. Surely this would be an event packed by people. I was actually surprised there was no line out front to get in...and glad, too, as it was misting and wet.

Peter Max Earth Day
She wished me luck and at noon, when the gallery opened, I returned. There were very few people inside and the Beatles were playing from the speakers. On the walls were hundreds of Peter Max paintings. The prices ranged from $1800 to $75,000 or more. I found one quite similar to the one I bought and was ecstatic to see a price on it of three times what I paid some 8 years ago. Good investment, but I don't want to sell.

A man approached me and introduced himself as Nim, one of Peter Max's assistants. He inquired to my interest and I spoke to him about the 5 pieces I owned. He led me to a piece of similarity (Peter Max often does many of a series with slight differences in each) known as “Without Boarders” and explained the meanings found within the art. He then led me to Peter Max, sitting in a chair looking as if he were waiting for something to happen. I was introduced, and Nim told Peter I was a collector. Peter sat up with interest as he asked what pieces I owned. Some have been in storage for 7 years, so I was hard-pressed to describe them well. He was very happy to hear that I was a fan and considered him my favorite artist.

Then, to my disbelief, I entered into a nice long conversation with Peter Max, just as I'd hoped to do. We spoke about his upbringing; his being born in Berlin but leaving after 10 months to go to Beijing. We spoke about that wonderful city and how much it had changed. When talking about his time in Israel, he was very interested that I had been there, as if he meets few who have. I patted my stomach as I professed my love of their food! He agreed. When mentioning that my best friend is from Ra'anana, Israel, he shook his head, familiar with the area.
The image I asked him to sign

I then produced a photo I had printed from home of one of my favorite pieces he had done. It was a Pan Am 747. He looked at it, recognized it, and guessed he had done that in the early 70's. He asked why I liked it. I told him I had a love of airliners and it just spoke to me. We then talked about his painting a 777 for Continental Airlines, of which I own a model.

It was an awesome conversation that lasted about half an hour. Soon, another person entered his presence and I didn't want to hog all of his time. I resumed looking at his work, and as I walked away, he told me to consider purchasing one of the pieces I told him that I very much loved...the Houston skyline. It was much more than I could afford.

What I did discover, was an older piece of his, done as an etching in watercolor and pencil called Celestial Sunrise. It was affordable and I decided I just had to have it, especially after having the meaning of it explained to me. There are two sages guarding the sunrise (one of my many nicknames is Grand Sage). UFOs dot the skies (I'm fascinated by the theory of ancient aliens).

Celestial Sunrise

As they took it off the wall, I made a comment that my mother was going to kill me! They placed it on an easel and Peter Max walked over to dedicate it. On the back, he wrote a note inside a large heart with three dots underneath. My sixth piece of art. He also signed the 747 I printed from home, so technically, my 7th piece (and Nim said that little photo is instantly worth $2000 for his having signed it!).

There are few personalities in the world that I would gush about being able to meet. Stevie Nicks is top of that list (while having met her, I've yet to have a conversation with her). Peter Max was another. I was so lucky to have found that ad just in time. I was very fortunate to have the kind of conversation I had dreamed of having with him. The only disappointment was that I was unsuccessful in convincing him to draw a penguin for me. Nim said he would do so...if I paid for it!

Penguin and Peter

1 comment:

  1. I just love this story and such a wonderful stroke of luck. It seems we have one more thing in common, he is my favorite artist too.