See You Later Pat

Pat O' Connor

Remarks from Dec 11 memorial at the Brooklyn Museum of Art for Pat O’ Connor (on the left).

So Modigliani walks into a bar, bartender says; Hey, why the long face? (I promised to tell a joke, that’s the only art joke I know).

Pat to a lot of us represented the old school, New York 57th street gallery scene. You couldn’t walk three paces down the sidewalk with out a friend or colleague running up and greeting him with a smile. Complete pain in the ass it was.

Remember his greeting? How are you, young man?

Later on, after spending the day basking in my new found youth, it might sink in: Hey, wait a minute! I’m not that young!  But I have the feeling you could be 150 years old and it would still be; How are you, young man!

On a couple of occasions we had the opportunity to meet with the Mayors’ of New York. First, Mayor Guiliani, immediately after his first election and there we were!  Having a cup of tea with Rudy in a white shirt, sleeves rolled up, cigar smouldering away in ashtray. A surreal scene in the

Tammany Hall Courthouse Building, an old black and white movie or a scene from Bonfire of the Vanities, protesters waved placards by the 12 foot tall wavy-glass windows, police captains and fire chiefs cooled their heels in the anteroom. Leave it to Pat to make everyone comfortable, chatting up Rudy about the strengths of the new Yankees lineup.

He had that gift of putting people at ease. When we met Mayor Bloomberg, just after he gave up his presidential bid, and after a few minutes, around the time the small talk was growing stale, Pat pitched in: Say Mr. Mayor, You know we were all rooting for you, if you were elected president, what exactly did you have in mind? Mayor Mike smiled broadly, you could see the lines disappear as he went on a 20 minute discussion; all the while his aids tapped their watches and he waved them off. His advice by the way was; publicly, New Yorkers, spend like mad but privately, cut up your credit cards, tighten your belt and hang on.

We all admired Pat’s Irish calm and grace. Almost a Bing Crosby ease, but without all the annoying singing.

I traveled with him to Ohio for a show at the Butler, a dealer from the Paris Gallery in tow. The only place we could find to eat was a Country Kitchen Buffet, there were 20 people in line waiting for the place to open. Largest people I have ever seen in my life, bovine actually, and here we were with the immaculately coiffed French dealer.

Pat, classic twinkle in his eye, handed him this oversize red rubber cafeteria tray, said something like “Now remember, you can always come back for more.”

This is from his friend and colleague Louis Zona, Director of the Butler Institute of American Art:

I’ve been heartsick since learing of Patrick’s passing. A few weeks ago I was on 57th Street but could not make myself go into the gallery for fear that there was bad news. My worst fears were realized. He was a truly wonderful guy and so very caring about his friends. I’ll never forget him and will miss his visits to Youngstown. He represented what was good about the art world. His decency, kindness and gentle manner will be his legacy. I always felt priveliged to be numbered among his many friends.

This is from our gallery dealer in Paris, Katsugu Tamenaga.

I am shocked to find out that Patrick passed away.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the ceremony at Brooklyn Museum in December. If you see his family there, please transfer my sincere condolences.

Besides the famous ‘all you can eat’ buffet, I have some very nice memories about Patrick working with him in my New York gallery.

Sincerely yours,

Katsugu Tamenaga

I found him very philosophical at the end. We were at his house watching tv, his wife Toni ran out and got us some pot to smoke, medical marijuana that is, neither of us inhaled, of course, being two good Republicans. But he knew what was happening and seemed very ok about moving on. He was a great friend, once or twice a day I reach for the phone to call him.

If you all remember, Pat would never really formally say goodbye, it was always “See you later! ”

The way I picture him now, I don’t know why, but instead of 57th street, in Manhattan, I see him walking down a sunny Irish country road.

He turns with a wave and a smile, and a ‘ See You Later! ‘

Patrick O’ Connor passed away October 6, 2010.