Wet Paint in the Wild: Artist Matthew Tully Dugan Blazes Through Henry Street Openings on 4/20 and Runs Into Jeff Koons Uptown

The artist takes us through a week in his life.

Jo Messer, left, and Matthew Tully Dugan.

Welcome to Wet Paint in the Wild, the freewheeling—and free!—spinoff of Artnet News Pro’s beloved Wet Paint gossip column, where we give art-world insiders a disposable camera to chronicle their lives on the circuit. To read the latest Wet Paint column, click here (members only). 

Artist Matthew Dugan (Tully, as he’s often called) is a downtown staple of the art scene. Last year, he threw an American Psycho-themed dinner at 56 Henry set against the backdrop of his Kendall Jenner paintings in the style of Andy Warhol, and ever since, I’ve been hooked on his keen eye and antics. Let’s let everyone’s favorite art handler take it away for a wild romp through Henry Street!

HAppY420 welcome to my wet paint lots of image blur and a haze of iconic artworld lituations.

The day started with a bright glow. I live downtown and I love walking out my door onto the active Chinatown streets. It takes almost no time before I see a familiar face, skater and street style icon Keith Hardy. He introduced me to his friend photographer Anna Bloda who just hosted a pop-up at this space on Essex Street that has been at least three different galleries I can remember. I continued on to my local smoke shop for some THC crystal pre-rolls I wanted to give to a select few today—the first being my barista, Cecily Brown being my immediate second 😉

This is Heavy. He is the newest addition to Pike Street and lives with the monks at this Buddhist temple. He is so huge and so sweet. I typically stop at this temple to meditate for a moment before a busy day and now I cherish that time even more.

I stop to check in with Will Shott at his gallery as he is opening a new show tonight with Lucy Charlesworth Freeman. I did the last show with Will and I changed his space quite a bit so it was great to see it back to fresh white with Lucy’s colorful work enlivening the walls. I’ve been helping a lot of the galleries on this block over the past year doing construction and art handling and this week was a heavy hitter, painting two separate spaces, transporting works and installing two shows. Everything is in order now and we’re all excited about a big night!

I stop over to 56 Henry to see the crew and drop off a half ounce of weed to Ellie Rines. She plans on selling dime bags through the night. Never not hustling.

My last stop in the neighborhood is at King’s Leap where Isabelle Frances McGuire will be opening her solo show. I met with gallery owner Alec Petty and artist Stephany Lazar to troubleshoot some wiring solutions for a piece that utilizes a baby Yoda doll as a motorized vessel thats activated by a motion sensor. It’s an amazing show.

Isabelle Frances McGuire, SelfPortrait2 {“Ghost”} (2023) and SuperBaby1(Unmanned) {“BB”} (2023).

I also swung by next door to Public Access to catch a quick glimpse of the group exhibition organized by Diego Barcelo and Selah Wilks featuring works seen here by Marika Thunder, Sofia Leilani, Isabella Kressin, and Madison Kenny. Lots of heat in this show!

I continued over to Nolita or Noho or wherever the Calvin Klein billboard is to see new Kendall Jenner ad styled by Mel Ottenberg. To those who don’t know me, it might seem odd that this was an important destination today. The majority of my art revolves around images of Kendall so something like this is always very exciting for me. I love seeing such large prints; it reminds me of Jack Pierson’s show “Paintings” (‘97-’02) at Maccarone in 2015, which were large, close-up photographs of lips, skin, and nature scenes printed on billboard vinyl and stretched like canvas. Mel made a TikTok a couple days prior talking about when he was young in NY, he’d dream about having his work on a billboard and it was inspiring to imagine showing something of my own at this scale.

I saw Michael Rappaport and his wife Kebe Dunn walking down the street right after that and had to politely ask for a picture. He was very grateful that I asked lol. I love seeing celebs in the wild.

Next, I had a meeting with the staff at Amanita to discuss some construction plans they have for their space. I’m so lucky to have such a huge community of people in the art world that constantly plug me in with job opportunities. Shout-out to Lauryn-Ashley Vandyke pictured here on her way back to the office with some Sweetgreen and big smile!

After crunching some numbers, I headed over to meet artist and friend Nathaniel Matthews. We met to talk about a painting of his I’m buying to set up a payment plan. I get so excited about adding new works to my collection and am always happy when I can show support to artists that are my contemporaries. Nat was carrying around some glass block that is part of a sculpture he’ll be presenting soon and he bought a Vichy Catalan that he planned to add to the piece.

I went home and rolled like 20 joints to give out and headed back to Henry and Pike for the openings. The 56 Henry team was holding it down for the two-space solo show by Jo Messer. From left to right: Olivia Saporito, Zeke Estes, and Alana Frances Baer.

The turnout for the openings was crazy—the whole block was flooded! So much love for the Henry Street scene. Pictured here from top left to bottom right: Leo Fitzpatrick, Eileen Kelly, Jeanette Hayes, Sam Jablon and Louis Shannon, Isabelle Frances Mcguire, Nandi Loaf, Omari Douglin, Joe Speier, Maddie Kuzak, Nate Freeman, Zac Bahaj, Lucy Charlesworth Freeman…

…and Ingrid Lundgren, Noah Beckwith, Erik Palm, Max Levai, Ellie Rines, Clayton Schiff, Cynthia Talmadge, Jo Messer.

The Party continued at Juku… Jo Messer and I shot by her father, Nick Hidad, Meg Yates, Ellie Rines (puffin’ that loud), and Alex Berns.

Then I took a quick trip to Tribeca to hang with some besties; the 420 vibes were peaking.
From left to right: Naveed Hussain, Gabriella Fussner Chen, and Harley Laratta.

I ended the night at Mehanata with amazing sets by BabyxD and Knives. I smoked everyone out one last time and hit the road. From top left to bottom right: Dagsen, Ize, BabyxD, Dom, Knives, Meg (tbh they all go by one name iykyk).

I made some more rounds the next day. Or was it Saturday? The timeline is a little fried. I pack a lot in when I don’t have work obligations and try to see as many shows as I can. I love going to, like, 10+ shows in a day and connecting the dots through history. I think the artists I am most drawn to are those that seem to have a deeply ingrained historical nostalgia but interpret these aesthetics in very contemporary ways. I went to see Alexandra Metcalf at 15orient, Cecily Brown at the Met, and Henry Belden who opened his show in the West Village at The Meeting. All these works read to me like relics unearthed from the future.

In my travels i ran into artists Liv van Kuiken, Liliana Lacayo, Paul Lee and Sean Flynn. Henry is pictured with bf Kye Christensen-Knowles at his show in the village.

I also ran into artist Yuan Fang at LDGR right after I made Jeff Koons take a picture next to Urs Fischer’s new work because I thought that was culturally significant in some cheeky way and I’m pretty sure he agreed.

I went to see Jessica Dean Harrison at Gern en Regalia and was surprised yet delighted to meet a musician who I have looked up to since high school, Cass McCombs. I acted like a total fan but he was really sweet and chill. I had to walk away before I embarrassed myself too terribly.

Later that night I saw A$AP Mob co-founder A$AP Illz getting out of his BMW around the corner from my apartment so I had to snap a quick shot. It was pouring rain and he still had me take two pictures because he didn’t want me to rush and he was right. The first pic was mad blurry and his eyes were closed.

The next day, I had to get back to work. I’m producing a few new pieces that I’ll be showing at a private residence during Frieze week mid-May. I had to pick up a huge silkscreen I had developed at Kayrock in Long Island City and I decided the Uber just wasn’t worth it so I took it on the bus and two trains to get it back downtown. I’ve been printing on aluminum DiBond so I got a piece cut at local sign maker Vida and I’m having artist Mario Miron make me a frame for it. Always more to accomplish! It’s an absolute blessing to have such an incredible community of intensely driven people that have all devoted their lives to the arts.  Thank you all for keeping the dream alive!

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