Patti Astor and FUN Gallery: Inventing Space for Creative Culture

:: Patti Astor was queen of the downtown scene. She arrived in NYC in 1975 with stardom on her mind. In a short time, she was in demand in underground No Wave films and was one of the creative sparks that put the East Village on the cultural map. But Patti Astor was also sick of the "established" uptown art gallery scene, filled with "white walls, white wine, and white people." She knew many graffiti and hip-hop artists, and understood that like the punk artists playing downtown, the uptown rappers and painters used the city as a backbeat and canvas for their work. When Astor and partner Bill Stalling launched FUN Gallery in 1981, they moved graffiti and hip-hop into a gallery space, bringing uptown sensibilities downtown. FUN Gallery's goal was to be a gallery for artists not buyers. It opened its doors to the people and kids who actually lived in the East Village. Patti Astor wanted art for everyone. FUN was the place artists could show without losing any of their street creds, and so the work of many of the cutting edge artists of the early 1980s--such as Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Dondi, Futura 2000, FAB 5 FREDDY, Lee Quinones, Kenny Sharif, and Lady Pink--could be seen there. It also was known for its terrific parties. FUN Gallery was only around for four years, but in that short time, it was instrumental in opening up the art world to creativity wherever it's found. 
 
Patti Astor wrote a book about her experiences, FUN Gallery The True Story, and we talked recently with her about FUN, fun, and art in the East Village in the 1980s. 
 
Excerpt of "Have We Met" and "Downtown" from the album, Thru Nature by deeB,
Excerpt of "A Reprise of Me" from the album, Six Onna 7 by Tha Silent Partner,
Excerpt of "Lefty Loosey ft. Tab" from the album Lily by Anitek,
All used courtesy of Creative Commons and found on WMFU's Free Music Archive

fun.mp3

Audio Tabs

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Futura 2000 in front of Kenny Scharf's <em>Whoa Nelly!</em> at the FUN Gallery in September 1982. Photo by Anita Rosenberg

Futura 2000 in front of Kenny Scharf's Whoa Nelly! at the FUN Gallery in September 1982. Photo by Anita Rosenberg

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Patti Astor & Dondi White, DONDI's show, FUN Gallery, November 1982. Photo by Anita Rosenberg

Patti Astor & Dondi White, DONDI's show, FUN Gallery, November 1982. Photo by Anita Rosenberg

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Keith Haring signing at the FUN Gallery in February 1983. Photo by Martha Cooper

Keith Haring signing at the FUN Gallery in February 1983. Photo by Martha Cooper

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Astor’s opening night dress, tagged by Saber, Mare One, Shepard Fairey, and others, for Art In The Streets exhibition at MOCA Los Angeles in 2011. Photo by Anita Rosenberg

Astor’s opening night dress, tagged by Saber, Mare One, Shepard Fairey, and others, for Art In The Streets exhibition at MOCA Los Angeles in 2011. Photo by Anita Rosenberg

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Steven Kramer's invite that started it all in the summer of 1981. Photo by Michael Markos

Steven Kramer's invite that started it all in the summer of 1981. Photo by Michael Markos

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Patti Astor with Keith Haring and LA 2’s The Smurfs at the FUN Gallery in February 1983. Photo by Eric Kroll

Patti Astor with Keith Haring and LA 2’s The Smurfs at the FUN Gallery in February 1983. Photo by Eric Kroll

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Patti Astor and Fab 5 Freddy at the Amphitheatre in 1982. Photo by Michael Markos

Patti Astor and Fab 5 Freddy at the Amphitheatre in 1982. Photo by Michael Markos

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The cover of Astor’s book FUN Gallery...The True Story featuring photo of Futura's Art Opening & BBQ! In 1981 by Anita Rosenberg

The cover of Astor’s book FUN Gallery...The True Story featuring photo of Futura's Art Opening & BBQ! In 1981 by Anita Rosenberg

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FUN Gallery "The Original and Still The Best" flyer. Collection Patti Astor

FUN Gallery "The Original and Still The Best" flyer. Collection Patti Astor

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Patti as "Vicki", in Eric Mitchell's Punk Rock version of Sunset Boulevard, Underground USA in 1980. Photo by Jedd Garet

Patti as "Vicki", in Eric Mitchell's Punk Rock version of Sunset Boulevard, Underground USA in 1980. Photo by Jedd Garet

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Jean-Michel Basquiat Invite, FUN Gallery, November 1982. Collection Patti Astor

TOP: Invite composed of a reproduction of THOR © The Estate of Jean Michel Basquiat, November 1982; BOTTOM: Jean Michel Basquiat signing, ‘In Plumbing’, Appenzell, 1982 © Stephen Torton. Courtesy Patti Astor