Artist Interviews

My Time As An Artists' Apprentice in New York

Cityscape artist Georgia Peskett recounts her time as an artists' apprentice in New York during the 1980s. She recalls an introduction to Jean-Michel Basquiat, drinking coffee with her father and a young Vincent Gallo, stretching out Joe La Placa's (at this time a painter in New York) canvases for him and her first work sold by Guillaume Gallozzi also around this time.

By Georgia Peskett | 13 Mar 2014

Georgia Peskett's full profile

My art education was of an unconventional nature.

I had completed a higher diploma in art and design at Epsom Art School at 18 and was on course to specialise in Graphic Design. During that course I had become restless and realised that graphic design was not for me. 

My father, artist Stan Peskett at that time was established in New York with a studio in Hampton Bays.

I made the decision to go to New York and become an assistant to him in his studio, I hadn't spent a lot of time with him during my childhood as he lived out there since the mid 70’s. I wanted to get to know him and see how and where he was living. 

Georgia in Hampton Bays Studio

My first impressions of the city had an immediate influence on my work 

We were often staying in other artists’ lofts and apartments whilst working on the projects in the city which I assisted with; nightclubs including Danceteria and storefront displays on Broadway near St Marks Place.

I learned about materials, working large scale, perspectives, acrylics and an array of different mediums.

I was also discovering and developing my own style, my early urban landscapes were taking shape, this sketch was a first impression of the city that I would use for reference material for a larger 6-foot canvas. 

The Bowery New York Sketch

As things developed for me, my talents were picked up on by the late Guillaume Gallozzi an art dealer who represented my father. He showed an eclectic mix of art, many from his personal collection at his legendary gallery/townhouse where he lived, curated and entertained on West Housten Street.

Stan Peskett & Guillaume Gallozi

Guillaume introduced my first complete cityscape painting to one of his collectors. I was really excited to have sold my first work at such an early stage in my career. 

The Bowery New York Painting

I later spent time staying at the Gallozzi Gallery on West Housten Street whilst I painted the room of the late Stephen Greengard (Author and curator) whilst he was away.

Georgia inside Gallozzi Gallery
Photograph by Addison Thompson

Guillaume Gallozzi sadly passed away in Paris, December 1995; this picture was taken of us in London a couple of years before.

Stan & Georgia with Guillaume in London

Prior to this, Guillaume had been in curatorial partnership with Joe La Placa, founder of All Visual Arts.

At the time I was in New York, Joe was painting in a loft near Canal Street. 

He required an assistant for a period whilst he completed a series of large-scale paintings of optical illusion paintings. Here, I learned about materials as I stretched Joe's canvases for him and prepared them with primers and masking tape, daily visiting his studio and running errands.

The New York art world was still small and you could easily run into bigger names around the city. My father knew a lot of artists, including Jean-Michel Basquiat and I was introduced to him not long before his unfortunate passing, he was fairly unwell when I met him, the excess of the city had taken its toll.

He had not yet reached the realms of fame in life as he did after his death.

I have great memories of spending time with another close family friend Michael Holman, a New York artist who formed the band Gray with Basquiat in 1979. 

Living in the East Village we would drink coffee in a diner with a young Vincent Gallo.

I learned so much about art and film, stories would be shared, ideas discussed. 

Stan & Georgia on the roof of Michael Cotten & Michael Holman's loft
Photo by Linda Covello

It was great but also tough, as an artist's assistant I existed largely on favours, sofa surfing around alphabet city and cycling to save money. One location that I stayed at was a corner of a Brooklyn gallery space that the regular tenants had sublet out to three of us whilst they vacated over the summer months. Bed was a rectangle of foam behind large freestanding paintings in a space with no windows; I shared this with two other London girls.

Some of the work was out on the streets with murals painted on Lafayette Street and Broadway. 

Georgia Peskett on Layafette Street

The conceptual side of contemporary art in New York at this time was blossoming; experimental performance artists were establishing themselves within the East Village club scene. Lydia Lunch staged a performance of live, naked urination that to this day, remains embedded in my memory.

East Village New York

Looking back, I'm glad that I grabbed the opportunity to have those experiences as a young artist.

To sum up, my three-year apprenticeship in New York far surpassed any course I could have chosen in the UK.

Georgia Peskett
Progress, New York

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