Living In A Museum: Westside Gunn Talks Impressive Art Collection
This feature is in the December '22 "The Creators" Issue. Click here to subscribe.
Westside Gunn in his home with painter Isaac Pelayo‘s 2022 rendition of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” adorned with his signature smiley faces The rapper wearing his collaborative merch with painter Isaac Pelayo featuring “The Liz 2.” PHOTO BY @SNAPGOD
Westside Gunn will always label himself a curator before claiming the “rapper” title that’s followed him throughout his career, and he’s proving that through his art collection.
When it comes to curating, the Buffalo, N.Y., native has a knack for putting things together, as people have seen with his Griselda Records imprint and other music projects.
Isaac Pelayo, “The Liz 2” (2021) PHOTO BY @SNAPGOD
But the best way to understand Westside Gunn “the curator” is through the paintings and various pieces he’s collected in his home and other storage locations. Gunn doesn’t know exactly how many pieces he has, but he is sitting on a pretty penny.
“I WANT TO TAP INTO THE YOUNG ARTISTS AND GIVE THEM HOPE BECAUSE OUR CITY IS SO POOR WE DON’T EVEN HAVE ART PROGRAMS, SO FOR THAT SCHOOL TO HAVE ONE IS AMAZING, AND I WANT IT TO BE MORE. WE NEED SOMEWHERE THAT PEOPLE CAN JUST COME AND LEARN. ART HELPS PEOPLE GET THROUGH WHATEVER THEY’RE GOING THROUGH.”
“I can’t even tell you how many pieces I got, bro, but I know I got $1 million worth of art,” he tells EDITION. “I have pieces from $100 to $150,000. I have so much in tubes that haven’t been stretched or framed yet and other prints that are still in boxes. Art really moves me, after fashion and wrestling.” That urge for art seems like an addiction to someone who doesn’t understand what it takes to be a curator. Gunn grew up with this drive that started as a kid who flipped through X-Men comic books with his best friend Victor, who also helped him create Altor Comics in the fifth grade.
“The way I think is crazy, man. I always want my thoughts on paper, and I always want to be around art,” says Gunn. “I can’t necessarily paint, but I’m good at direction, and my vision is crazy, so Altor Comics, Victor’s drawing and my great vision made me want to explore art.”
Gunn isn’t that technical curator who knows everything about a piece. He’s someone who loves “dope sh*t that catches you.” There are works from modernday artists such as Mariella Angela, Matt Gondek, Ron English, Isaac Pelayo and more in his collection that do the job.
Westside Gunn’s branded cue balls. PHOTO BY @SNAPGOD
Many of the pieces range from celebrity portraits to pop art, and there’s no limit to what Gunn will have commissioned.
“I don’t know anybody with more art than me. I actually want to feel like I’m living in a museum. People are starting to respect me more in the art world, so I want to take advantage of that,” he says. “I have a beautiful mind, and I’m trying to take this as far as I can because this is a lifestyle to me. I don’t think I can live another way because art has been in my life for 31 years.”
“Griselda is to the point that everyone is doing their thing now and I don’t necessarily have to be around all the time to make sure things are running smoothly because everyone is self-sufficient. That gives even more time to study, learn and get better with art.”
While Gunn plans to elevate his knowledge of art, he’s also planning on taking his passion back to the youth of Buffalo. Politicians and more have notoriously overlooked the city and that affects the youth the most, given a lot of their programs are lost to budget cuts.
“I DON’T KNOW ANYBODY WITH MORE ART THAN ME. I ACTUALLY WANT TO FEEL LIKE I’M LIVING IN A MUSEUM. PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO RESPECT ME MORE IN THE ART WORLD, SO I WANT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT.”
As he was telling his story, Gunn’s phone rang to signal a notification he received from The Health Science Charter School thanking him for a recent donation he made to the place of learning. Gunn donated art supplies and other products to assist the students throughout their respective treks into the art world, and he wants to go even bigger and open more art centers.
“You see I don’t make this up,” he says as he shows the message thanking him for the thoughtful contribution. “I want to tap into the young artists and give them hope because our city is so poor we don’t even have art programs, so for that school to have one is amazing, and I want it to be more. We need somewhere that people can just come and learn. Art helps people get through whatever they’re going through.”
Interior of Westside Gunn’s home featuring DNTWATCHTV’s “Buffalo Kids” piano and Mariella Angela’s “Ross” (2021) and “Khaled” (2021) PHOTO BY @SNAPGOD