Dash Snow is already being branded an "icon." The downtown sperm-and-whatever-else artist died Monday night of a heroin overdose at the age of 27. And you can already spot the outlines of a Basquiat-esque art world canonization starting to form.
As the memorials appear, Dash's legend is growing. The Independent calls him "the mythical hero of an artistic underworld." The Guardian says he was a "mythical figurehead," and compares him to James Dean, Jimi Hendrix, and Sylvia Plath. Vulture spoke to Dash's art dealer:
"I wouldn't say he didn't love living, but living for him was difficult," says Peres, who adds that to his knowledge Snow was alone at the Lafayette House, a hotel in Lower Manhattan, on Monday night. "To simply say he overdosed on drugs is insufficient, because it wasn't that simple. He died and there were drugs involved. He was complex and astute. He was very sensitive. Although he was only 27, he felt the pain of someone who'd lived a long life."
Terrence Koh is dedicating tonight's four-hour performance art piece, in which he "lies on the floor in a shirt made from crushed pearls, his face and feet covered in powder," to Dash.
Koh will change his tune to "Cheree" by the synth-punk band Suicide. As Koh explained in an e-mail message, "It is for one of my best friend's Dash and that is our favorite song together and we used to dance to it together."
When I used to run around with a camera and a notepad following Irak and documenting as much of their lives as I could, he said something that changed my life forever. He said, "Why are you always reporting on shit and reviewing other people's shit? Why don't you do your own shit?" I couldn't get it out of my head. I still can't. And you shouldn't either.
There's no denying that dying young—while always a tragedy—can do wonders for an artist's legacy. Dash Snow was not the artist that Basquiat was, but their stories do have some strong parallels: graffiti writers who moved into the gallery world, were dismissed as clowns and lightweights, and died drug-related deaths in their 20s. Today, Basquiat is regarded as a major artist of his era, and his cool factor is untarnished; his contemporary Julian Schnabel, who was right there with him, didn't die from drugs, and today is regarded as a bit of a sellout, directing Hollywood films and pouring his time into huge pink apartment buildings for the rich in Manhattan.
Dash Snow was, in fact, more famed and respected for his lifestyle than for his works of art. But death can change that. His don't-give-a-fuck attitude now has a tragic ending; but his art—which ranged from legitimately good but not brilliant to outright corny (in my worthless opinion)—will now begin to be re-evaluated in light of his newfound status a martyr to the fast life. In ten or twenty years, who knows? Condemnations of Dash Snow as a hipster fuck-off are bound to fade away, leaving only the picture of the soul of an artist. That's how legends—and fortunes—get made in the art world.
[Pic: Maayanpearl's Flickr, Peres Projects]