Paul Thek- Art history.
Paul Thek (November 2, 1933 – August 10, 1988) was a painter, sculptor and artist who died of AIDS in New York City. He was 54 years old.
Thek’s lover, the photographer Peter Hujar, died a year earlier of AIDS on November 25, 1987. Hujar was 53 years old.
Born in Brooklyn, Thek studied @aslnyc and Pratt institute. In 1951 he entered the Cooper Union. In 1954, he relocated to Miami and formed a partnership with the set designer Peter Harvey, who would design for Balanchine and who introduced him to artists, composers and writers, including Tennessee Williams (1911 – 1983).
In 1957, Thek exhibited his work for the first time in a Miami gallery. In 1959, he returned to New York and worked as a textile designer for Prince Studios NYC. From 1962 to 1964, he lived and worked in Rome, until returning to New York in 1964 when he participated in ‘Screen Test’ by #AndyWarhol(1928 – 1987). He shared his love for Fire Island with Peter Hujar. He lived in Oakleyville on Fire Island.
Paul Thek in his studio in Oakleyville Fire Island. Portrait of Peter Hujar by Paul Thek.
During the 1970s, when Thek lived in Italy, he created many of his works in collaboration with Hujar. In 1976, he returned to New York once again. Having lost what prestige he once had in the American art scene of the 1960s, he spent his last days washing floors and bagging groceries, but still managed to create his art. Although, today his work may be seen in collections at the @hirshhorn and @whitneymuseum, Thek died in poverty forgotten by the same establishment that had previously celebrated him.
“I have been much weakened in my system and in my will by the endless disappointments and frustrations of the so-called ‘art’ world, such silly vapid people!” he said. “My spirit has been broken . . . and so, I think, the virus has taken hold.”
#SusanSontag (1933 – 2004) and Thek were great friends and sometime lovers. Sontag even suggested they have a baby together, but Thek refused. Afterward, Sontag “withdrew” from the relationship; but nevertheless, she was said to be at his hospital bedside during the last days before his death.
Sontag dedicated her 1966 collection of critical essays, ‘Against Interpretation’ and her later work of critical theory ‘AIDS and Its Metaphors’ (1989) to Thek.’ Copy by AIDS Memorial.