A Queerty Original!

John Connelly Knows His Art

Art fans have no doubt heard the name John Connelly.

The 40-year old curator currently commands quite the cadre of artists, including AA Bronson, Scott Treleaven and Nick Lowe. One would assume that Connelly always felt the aesthetic love, but – as we all know – assuming only brings trouble.

In fact, Connelly originally wanted to be an actor, but found himself distracted by art history, a pursuit that plunged him straight into New York creative pool.

Now, a few years on, Connelly’s 27th street gallery, John Connelly Presents, consistently puts on a good show, like Nao Tsuda’s Tunnel Room, on view until May 10th.

Our pal Justin Conner recently sat down with Connelly to talk artistic evolution, how AIDS affects art today and why Bronson’s butt massages are bomb.

Read all about it, after the jump.

Justin Conner: Let’s start by you telling me a little bit about how got involved in the art world.

John Connelly: I grew up in Baltimore and went to school at Fordham University. I just wanted to be in the city. It was kind of cool because they had a very green, traditional, Gothic sort of campus. But the student body was pretty conservative – there’s a lot of like jocks, and preps, and stuff.

Conner: What were you?

Connelly: What was I? I was a thespian. I had been a thespian in high school, and I was in a production of The Tempest at Fordham, I was coming out then–

Conner: That’s late–later in life.

Connelly: Well, for then it was early. It was a totally different time. I wish it was as easy–not easy, easier–as it seems like it might be today for people in their teens, in high school to come out without fear of being hated, or losing your friends and your family…

Conner: How old are you, now?

Connelly: I turned 40 in March. I was going to say, I was a member of the Fordham Lesbians and Gays, the FLAG association. I also worked part time at the MET. I would spend my breaks looking at artwork in all the different rooms. It was a great way to get to know the museum. Thus, I became interested in art history. I took my first class at Fordham, but then I quickly realized that I wanted to be in a program where I was with visual artists, too, and to take photo classes. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be an artist or not, but I knew I wanted to be in that environment.
[Shane and Creepy Crawly from Scott Treleaven.]
Conner: Was acting ever an option?

Connelly: No! I was a pretty poor actor. (Laughs)

Conner: But that was sort of an introduction to the arts.

Connelly: Yes. Then I heard about SUNY Purchase. You really get what you put into an institution, and SUNY Purchase had a lot of facilities and really creative people and it was close to New York–just about as far as taking the subway from the Bronx, by car. It was the best decision I ever made. It was a great time. That’s where I started taking more art history classes and majored in art history. I did a few internships there and in the city and eventually got a job at a gallery called Stein/Gladstone, which was a collaborative gallery between Barbara Gladstone and Christian Stein. They were one of the first that had the YBA shows, the Young British Artists, like Damien Hirst. Barbara just started showing Matthew Barney, so there was a Matthew Barney group show that we did.

Conner: That’s great.

Connelly: Then I started school at Hunter; I was unemployed again for a while because Gladstone/Stein gallery closed, so I was going to school full-time. And then I saw an ad in the newspaper for a gallery job, and it said “Rosen Gallery.” I was like, “That can’t be Andrea Rosen,” because at that time nobody advertised art jobs in the Times. It was very word of mouth. I wrote on my letter “Andrea Rosen Gallery,” and that was how they whittled down the applicants, because she knew if someone wrote “Andrea Rosen Gallery,” they were familiar with the gallery. Anyway, I went there, and I interviewed and I got the job. I worked there for seven years–started out as a front desk person and labeling slides, and slowly worked up to being one of the directors.