theGrio’s 100: Tripoli Patterson, surfer brings new vibe to fine art

Tripoli Patterson

Tripoli Patterson, right, with Bob Colacello. © Paul Bruinooge of Patrick McMullen, photograph courtesy of Tripoli Gallery

Who is Tripoli Patterson?

Tripoli Patterson is an East Coast champion surfer who uses the skills he learned in his sport to successfully navigate the world of fine art. Need proof? The free-spirited art lover is the curator of over 30 shows. Owning his own gallery was a natural evolution. “Surfing taught me that you can’t fight the ocean, and it’s kind of the same thing running a business,” Patterson told The New York Times. “You have to know that there are always going to be forces that are way bigger than you are.”

Why is he on theGrio’s 100?

Overcoming such challenges as an entrepreneur, Patterson has produced over 20 shows at his namesake art space since he opened it in 2009 — all the while rocking an afro-and-jeans personal aesthetic. The laid-back owner of the Tripoli Gallery of Contemporary Art in the wealthy town of Southampton, Long Island might seem out of place among the manicured Hamptons set. Yet, Patterson is well-connected with a fine art pedigree that includes marquee names such as de Kooning and Schnabel — art world demigods — among his connections.

Patterson collaborates with those contacts to sell art while promoting a uniquely vibrant vibe in a field known to be seriously stuffy. His cool persona and love of an international mix of artists was honed by a childhood spent in Bali and an adulthood surfing in exotic locales. Through his various influences, Tripoli Patterson is bringing freshness and diversity to a typically homogeneous fine art community.

What’s next for Patterson?

His latest exhibition, “Within Reach,” featuring the works of Lola Montes Schnabel, will be shown through February 11, 2013 at his Southampton location. Patterson also displayed her work at an innovative pop-up shop in New York City on January 16, 2013, demonstrating how he brings new life to an exclusive creative scene. 

Follow Tripoli Patterson on Twitter at @TripoliGallery