Richard Phillips Wants His MTV

Published March 27, 2014

“My paintings might be silent,” says the artist Richard Phillips, but “music has been essential.” As the music curator of this year’s MTV RE:DEFINE, a blowout Dallas gala and auction benefiting the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, the artist has the chance to blend his loves of art and music, all for the very good cause of raising HIV awareness. In Phillips’s words, “Perfect match.”A New York resident, Phillips researched by doing what he’d do anyway: checking out concerts, preferably those of the gritty downtown variety. “It’s about exposing the core of rock-‘n’-roll, from the very beginning–the excitement, the visual and creative avant-garde of early videos,” he explains, remembering when MTV accurately stood for “music television.”

The featured performer of the evening will be Starred, a band Phillips first saw perform at an East Village bar. In his view, they’re on par with the Velvet Underground in the late 1960s. “When you hear the minimalism, and the core nature of their music, to me, it really personifies that,” he says. Lead singer Liza Thorn, who is the core of the band with guitarist Matthew Koshak, happened to be friends with Jennifer Herrema of Black Bananas, and brought her on as the night’s DJ. Phillips, speaking on the phone, actually sounded star-struck. “We don’t even need to have a discussion what her position is in terms of the pantheon of rock gods, you know?” he remarked. “She is the absolute irreducible entity of rock ‘n’ roll.”Uniting such a high-caliber music icon and Starred, “the best in rock-‘n’-roll right now,” is part of Phillips’ vision to elevate RE:DEFINE to something as relevant as, say, Austin’s SXSW; he hopes this year’s rendition sets a precedent for “fantastic art” and “the best music,” supporting a “philanthropic entity that is inspiring, help[ing] people in the way that art and rock ‘n’ roll should.”Offerings from the Paddle8-hosted auction, including works by Damien Hirst, Phillips, Sarah Lucas, Julian Schnabel, Daniel Arsham, Michelle Grabner, JR, Nicolos Lobo, Angel Otero, Jennifer Rubell and more, will be displayed on the walls of Dallas Contemporary, where the event will be held. When it all winds down, the rising institution (younger than Phillips by over a decade), will debut his first US museum solo show alongside a Schnabel show.For now, Phillip’s head is spinning with RE:DEFINE pursuits. “I want people to come away having been blown away by some of the best music that they’ve ever seen, and I want them to go home with great works of arts, on which they bid way more they can possibly afford.”“It’s all about creating moments, and being present in that moment, and I’m hoping to do just that.”