A Downtown Artist Who Cast a Long Shadow

“Richard could be charming and charismatic but he was a difficult character and did things on his own terms ” Mr. Jacoby said in an interview shortly after the artist’s death. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.


“42nd Street” by Walker Evans, from 1929, is one of several original prints by Depression-era photographers that hang in the Manhattan apartment of Mr. Jacoby.

Adrienne Grunwald for The New York Times

You own several original prints by photographers who defined their times. How did you acquire them?

My father [Irving Jacoby] was a documentary filmmaker in the ’30s and friends with a group of photographers and filmmakers, among them Ben Shahn and Walker Evans. He also did a film about Edward Weston toward the end of Weston’s life. After he died, my mom said there was a box of his in the basement that might have some pictures. And sure enough …

“Shadowman” is set in New York’s downtown art scene of the ’80s. Were you a part of it?

I lived right around the corner from the Mudd Club. You’d wander around these empty streets — they were just beginning to call it TriBeCa. I remember first seeing Richard’s “Shadowman” street paintings there. Later, my friend Hank O’Neal showed me a photo he’d taken of a “Shadowman” and introduced me to Richard just as he was making his comeback. [A Hambleton painting is displayed in the exhibition “Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983,” on view through April 1 at the Museum of Modern Art.]

Mr. Hambleton was initially the dominant artist in that scene — his paintings sold for more than Keith Haring’s and Basquiat’s.

Richard was getting $15,000 or $20,000 more than the others. That Basquiat that sold [in May] for $110 million? The people who sold that bought it for $19,000.


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