Interview: Peter Makebish Talks About His Turnover From Music To Art

by Chelsea Burcz · October 20, 2011

Peter Makebish isn't afraid of change. Once a music photographer, Makebish dove into making music of his own, and was Andre Balazs' go to DJ for years. Now for the past two years, Peter has been primarily curating painting exhibitions. He has recently curated his 3rd exhibition, 'An Instance of Vibration' in the basement of the Bowery Hotel (which was attended by cool kids like Johnny Knoxville, Waris Ahluwalia, and Lola Schnabel, who was actually in the show). Makebish let us pick his brain a bit - here's what he had to say...

[Photo via]

Tell me a little about yourself.

I have been a DJing/remixing for 11 years. I was born in 1971 in the Hudson Valley, have a fraternal twin brother, studied art history and photography at University, and moved to NYC in January 1994. I am a poet, photographer, filmmaker, DJ/remixer and curator.

You started off as a DJ, spinning at places like the Standard regularly, what made you make the switch to contemporary art?

I started DJing in 2000. I played music at the Submercer back when it was a "speakeasy". The reason for change, well that just happens. Music and painting are very similar. They both attack the senses quickly. Powerful.

What did it feel like when you had all your friends and guests at your first exhibit at Anonymous Gallery?

My definition as a curator is to combine art, atmosphere and personalities. Three active elements. The rooms energy was rocking with beautiful paintings, old friends, new friends, family, babies, and dogs. It was just a fantastic feeling to have all of these forces come together and create happiness.

How did the Bowery Hotel show come together?

What a trip! It’s a collaboration of energies, artwork, people, atmosphere, and a cool subterranean gallery brought together to create a vibe. The works in the space are a catalyst for a lyrical kind of knowing. I saw the space below the hotel one day when I was touring around with Sean MacPherson. My jaw dropped. I fell in love immediately. It was raw power. It was outlaw-ish. It was a secret venue that no one had used for anything aside from building furniture. Well, after a year and a half of pining, thanks to Eric Goode, Sean Macpherson, and Richard Born, who understand and appreciate art and new ventures, I was able to see my dream become reality. Once again, I asked Joseph from Anonymous Gallery to help structure my concept. He said yes. I am a very lucky man. Also a big shout out to the Bowery crew, Mike G, Oscar S for making this place look amazing!

How was curating the Anonymous show different than the Bowery Hotel show?

It felt the same except I felt more confident with my decisions. I rely upon gut instinct and suggestions from people close to me.

Your show at Bowery ended on October 15th, what’s your next venture?

Good News! 'An Instance of Vibration' has been extended for another two weeks! I have rehung the exhibition for the final two weeks. I've included new paintings and one more artist named Michael Tharp. My next exhibition is undecided as of right now.

Do you collect art personally? Any favorite artists?

I have paintings from artists/friends such as Ross Bleckner, John Newsom, Lola Schnabel and Kika Karadi. I love the work of all the artists I’ve had in my shows. I also collect art you can find at flea markets, the streets of NYC, or Estate Auctions online, etc. My last purchase was an oil painting of a little blonde boy hitchhiking with two six shooters, a lollipop, and a tear in his eye. A huge passion of mine is textiles, which I collected before paintings. I’m fascinated by the color, pattern and shapes - steeplechase and Pennsylvania Dutch star quilts, Navajo and Turkish rugs, embroidered Peruvian wall hangings, Tibetan prayer mats, to patterned dishcloths.

Is art your full time gig now, or will you always be a DJ at heart?

I will always be a realist at heart. I follow the path which I was meant to follow. I still DJ events and the Standard Hotel. This weekend I just played a painting party at Jim Carrey's painting studio. It was so much fun - twenty five guests painting in a fluorescent lit room with rock 'n' roll music playing loud.

Where do you most often go out at night these days?

Bowery Hotel! If I am not there, I am at home with Luna Kitty and Little Gray Bear.

[FYI - These are his cats.]

[Johnny Knoxville and Peter Makebish at his Bowery Hotel show, Photo via]

Any favorite galleries?

My favorite galleries are Tony Shafrazi and Larry Gagosian.

What inspires your curated work? Does your past in nightlife have any influence?

I am inspired by people, spaces, and feelings. The Bowery was so inspiring to work at simply because of its effortless beauty. The hotel in itself is one of the most perfectly executed exhibitions I have ever seen.

[First 2 photos via Robert Banat]