A crowd of about 50 or so people braved the cold yesterday to experience the latest memorial service for the beloved artist–slash–celebrated-downtown-persona Dash Snow at the East River Amphitheater. Snow, whose exploits and edgy artwork largely photographs, collages, and personal artifacts documenting his wild life earned him many fans, and who was loved by those who knew him for having the “soul of an angel” was found naked in a bathtub in the Lafayette Hotel on July 16, dead of a heroin overdose. He was 27.
The memorial venue itself was a hot conversation topic among the disparate, if at times awkward, crowd shivering in the bleachers of the outdoor amphitheater two blocks south of the Williamsburg Bridge. “This spot right here is legendary,” said fellow downtown legend and hipster tastemaker A-ron. “We used to all just hang out. Like before goin’ to the bars or before we were even allowed to go to the bars we all used to just hang out here with a boom box.”
Onstage was Lizzi Bougatsos, lead singer of Gang Gang Dance. Hovering nearby with a video camera was renowned documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens), who said he was doing a “portrait piece” on behalf of Dash’s grandmother Christophe de Menil, a well-known arts philanthropist and heiress to the Schlumberger oil fortune. The De Menil clan and various other dignified silver-haired folk occupied the front rows. His daughter, Secret, and girlfriend, Jade, were off to the side of the stage. Fashion writer Peter Davis pointed out Glenn O’Brien, Chris Bollen, and Vito Schnabel among the larger skateboard-wielding audience. “I don’t know, I’m lookin’ for the energy,” A-ron told us, surveying the bleachers. “You know Dash always wanted a more wild style. It’s very sweet that everybody came out, but it should be more — I’m waiting for the cops to shut it down, you know, make it a little more fun.”
Onstage, Christophe de Menil, dressed in black and reading from cards in a French accent, said she will always treasure the story about the time she offered to clean her grandson’s black hat. “‘Oh no,’ he said. ‘I’m trying to weather it, I want seven for a sculpture, and I’m on number five.’” She witnessed the beginnings of perhaps Snow’s greatest adventure: “Four years ago, I saw Dash making many preparations like opening and closing closets, showering, trying various T-shirts on, listening to various songs over and over. And so I knew something’s happening. So I said to him, ‘Listen, I have to leave for Houston at six in the morning. Please let me know you’re okay.’ So sure enough, at 5:30, he called me and he goes, ‘It’s okay.’ And I never asked what he’d been into. But later I learned that he had, with a bunch of friends on walkie-talkies spread around the Brooklyn Bridge, climbed on a ledge of the Brooklyn Bridge and painted his tag and some insults to a local politician.” Her voice began cracking. (Legend has it Dash Snow is one of two people to have successfully tagged the Brooklyn Bridge; the other guy fell to his death on the journey back.)
Both Snow’s friend Dan Colen and his gallerist Javier Perez, who helped organize the memorial, implied that his death had not been an accident, but somehow part of his art. “I respect his decision, and I am coming to understand it somehow,” wrote Perez from Berlin. “I think this is a sentiment that those that knew him well share and can appreciate.”
“It’s really like hard to swallow,” Colen said, “but at the end of the day the fact that Secret exists makes the whole thing such a different experience. I dunno, maybe she won’t be like him, but it seems like a huge, huge piece of him to kind of like get to look at and even get to interact with.”