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Ariana Papademetropoulos Paints (and Parties) Like the World Is Ending

Ariana Papademetropoulos Photographed by Richie Shazam
Artwork © Ariana Papademetropoulos

TUESDAY 12 PM DEC. 20, 2022 NYC

Los Angeles–based painter Ariana Papademetropoulos, one of today’s leading artists for a new wave of American surrealism, is on a stopover in New York City. She’s at Vito Schnabel Gallery, where last winter she opened her second solo show with a wild menagerie of unicorns. Today she’s there to chat with Interview impresario Bob Colacello, who arrives on time and spent the next hour speaking to Ariana about making multiple worlds, growing up on two sides of Los Angeles, and lounging in bed at the Louvre.

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BOB COLACELLO: You’ve gotten a lot of press the last few years.

ARIANA PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Maybe. But I’m nervous about what you’re reading.

COLACELLO: I think your work lends itself to literary and philosophical discourse. Writers have a good time with your work.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: That’s better for me because I feel like I’m just the conduit. I’d rather have it be interpreted. When people write about my work, I realize things I didn’t know about it before.

COLACELLO: Really good art should be open to many interpretations.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Yeah. I try to keep my images in this in-between state so depending on the viewer’s psychology, the work can be seen in a different way.

COLACELLO: I like to start at the beginning. You were born in Los Angeles. I saw that your father was an architect in Venice Beach, and your mother lives in Pasadena. That’s quite a contrast.


COLACELLO: Pasadena is known to be very conservative. It was a bastion of the John Birch Society way before your time in a very square, WASPy enclave. I don’t know if you know who I mean by Betsy Bloomingdale, Nancy Reagan’s best friend. She said that she and her husband, Alfred, made a vow when they married that they would never go to Pasadena. They lived in Bel Air. 

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Oh, I’m the opposite. I want to end up in Pasadena.

COLACELLO: You shuttled back and forth from those two points in L.A.? 

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Yeah, and it definitely had a big influence on my work. Ever since I was little, I was really into decorating. So in Pasadena, I had a very traditional bedroom, and in Venice, I wanted rainbow wallpaper from the ’60s. I assumed these different roles in these different places. One is very country club and the other one was wild. That’s how L.A. is—having one world here and the other world there. 

COLACELLO: Was it Brecht who said Los Angeles was seven suburbs in search of a city? 

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: I like Los Angeles for that reason. I love going to estate sales and seeing how people decorate their homes. It’s an installation in some ways. I feel like estate sales in L.A. are different because of the way that people create their environment to have their own persona.

COLACELLO: Do you know about Billy Haines? He was a silent actor who became the decorator for Hollywood stars like Joan Crawford, and for socialites like Betsy Bloomingdale. He was very in with the Reagan group and he created this Hollywood Regency style.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Oh yeah, I know who you mean.

COLACELLO: Tom Ford now owns Betsy Bloomingdale’s house, and I’m dying to see what he’s done with it. It had been a 1920s Spanish-style house, typical L.A., and then Billy Haines transformed it into a Palladian villa around the courtyard. It was really special.


COLACELLO: What school did you go to?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: I went to lots of schools, because I wasn’t the best child. I was a terror. 

COLACELLO: Holy terror!