Further proof that skateboarders will soon be running the entire universe:
This past winter, your favorite artfart/skateboarder Ed Templeton was unknowingly entered in an art contest of the most global sort¿competing against a handpicked group of the world’s most creative thinkers and tinkerers. When it was all said and done, he was transported to Milan, Italy, embraced by the prestigious minds of the art world as their newest cool kid, and presented with a check for a cool 50 large. Not bad work if you can get it.
Let’s talk about the art contest you were in¿wait, was it really a contest?
Yeah. They wanted to distinguish it as a contest instead of a grant or a fund or something like that. It was called Search for Art¿searching for what art is today.
I got a call out of nowhere from a lady who had bought Teenage Smokers from the Alleged Gallery in New York. This lady bought it, took it back to Italy, and entered it in this contest. Once she found out I didn’t know about it, she called me and said, “Yeah, you’re coming to Italy if you want. We’re flying you out free of charge, we’re putting you up in a hotel, and you get to be in this show.”
Did you really know what was up at that point?
No, not at all. I was like, “Okay, that sounds good.” The ticket came and I still had a broken neck, so it seemed like a cool thing to do. Even if nothing happened in the contest, I didn’t care because I didn’t enter it. I mean, I did enter it, I just didn’t know I entered it.Who else was in it?
Phil Frost. A guy named Chris Habib was in it, too. He’s a filmmaker and artist who works with Sonic Youth and has done some of the covers on their recordings. Chris Yourmik was in it, he’s the guy who lays out Skateboarder magazine. There were a bunch of photographers, a lot of artists from New York, but in general it was very cosmopolitan. There were artists from Chile, all over South America, Brazil, all over Europe, Canada, and the U.S.¿people pretty much submitted stuff from every country.
The jurors were from all over, too¿very prestigious-type dudes. There was the curator of the Tate Gallery in England, the curator from the Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, the curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, and all these really big, influential, and powerful art people.
The work you’ve done is mainly associated with skateboarding or the peripheral-art movement that’s come from skateboarding. What was it like to be with all these people who are professional artists, first and foremost?
It was really strange. I knew that Phil Frost was going to be in the finals, so I was hoping to hang out with him. That was my comfort in going there¿knowing I was at least going to know one person fairly well.
When I showed up in the hall the first day, I was kind of blown away. I felt really small and really out of my league. The way I do shows is really commonplace. I just go and hang it; it’s very normal, and I do it all myself. I walked into this place, and there were all these assistants helping people put up walls, and brokers hanging people’s art for them while they sat there and told them what to do. Some people were there for four days slaving over everything.
Did they have an awards presentation and all that?
There was this huge dinner, and if I thought I was out of my league when I first went in there, it was ridiculous at the dinner. Every single attendee was a rich man in a suit with a wife in a fur. It was like a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous dinner¿a very stuffy atmosphere.
When they announced my name, I was struck dumb. I couldn’t believe it. I immediately felt really guilty because not only did I not care if I won or not, but I didn’t need the money. Whereas some of the people are struggling artists who probably needed the money. I felt bad.
I told everyone about that and they were like, “What are you talking about? That’s not the way to see it..” And now I agree. Up to this point, I’ve paid for all my art shows out of my own pocket, and I’ve rarely gotten a payback on it. I think the whole idea was for whoever won the money, it’s definitely gonna make their life a little easier as an artist.
Do you think you’d be doing this work if you weren’t a skateboarder?
No. If I were an artist in any way and not a skateboarder, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am and in this situation. On many levels, skateboarding is the cause of what’s happening in art for me right now. Meeting people and other artists who were skateboarders … it’s hard to explain … Alleged Gallery did a bunch of skateboard art shows and kind of almost created a group and scene of artists that I was a part of. And that group has now seemingly graduated into a spotlight of sorts. All the people who’ve been involved from the beginning are now benefiting from the hype. None of it would’ve happened if it weren’t for skateboarding. It’s all about skateboarding because that’s who I am¿a skateboarder.