Artsy Insight: Ashley Bickerton and Paul Gauguin

After a decade at the center of the New York art world and tired of what he called the “heat-seeking” city, Ashley Bickerton moved to Bali, Indonesia, in 1993. This trajectory would lead to years of comparisons with Symbolist painter Paul Gauguin, who similarly left France for Polynesia in the 1880s. Bickerton long objected to the parallels, saying, “I avoid that washed-up-on-the-shores and paint folklorica kind of fantasy. I can’t stand the idea of making art as wispy exotic and escapist kinds of things.” Recently, however, he has acknowledged the biographical similarities. “It actually took years and years before I faced the elephant in the room.” Finally, Bickerton explained, “there he was, Gauguin: expiring, syphilitic, his sarong falling off, surrounded by those young island girls. I decided to face him.”

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