Home Visual Arts Sam Bassett: Prince of the Art World.

Sam Bassett: Prince of the Art World.




F: I saw you worked with Randy Moss as a photographer. Tell me what was that like?

S: That was five years ago. Racial relations in America were not the way they are now. Now, this guy is like a gazelle, a beautiful athlete. You look at him, you’re like “he’s beautiful.” But, he has had a lot of problems, so he’s guarded and protected. He wanted no part of anything creative, anything avant. So, he turned down my first few ideas. The concept ended up being Randy Moss wearing fishing waiters. Right as we started shooting it started to rain. I had no assistant. When you have a celebrity portrait, it’s tough to get what I would like to call the ‘one.’ I have war stories of ridiculousness.

F: Can you give me one example?

S: (laughs and thinks for a moment)

F: How about Donald Trump?

S: That was one. That was for a photo spread in German GQ about billionaires. I thought if I’m going to be shooting a portrait of Donald Trump, I want to make sure it’s legendary. Their direction to me was to photograph his things, his buildings, his boat, and combine that into one collage. What does that mean? Does that mean anything? You can do that in your sleep. I thought what if I take landscape shots from the top of the Empire State building and then project those images on top of him. Then make it look like he was flying above the city, and that would be sort of fun. So, I bought a pass to the top of the Empire State Building and took shots: north, east, south, west. Now, I had these costumes from a masquerade ball I just had. So, I thought what if I used these wings I have on Donald Trump. The next morning, I was in his office. I set up the projections from the top of the building on a white backdrop. He comes in (never met him before), “What do you want me to do?” I told him to stand in front of the projection and put on the wings. Trump wouldn’t do it. (Even after several convincing attempts.) Finally, I upped the anti. I said, at one point you’ll be sitting next to me at supper and you’ll thank me for putting on these wings. He paused for maybe ten seconds. Silent. If the guy walks out, I’m screwed. After ten seconds he goes, OK which one do you want me to put on first?

F: The risk paid off.

S: After that I was able to shoot him in Devil, angel, and fairy wings. Later on he ended up sending a letter to the editor (of German GQ) saying he liked the photographs.

Sam and I continued our chat about his life and career, and the more he spoke the more I discovered the all out versatility of the man. He flew relief missions during Hurricane Andrew at the age of 13. The same age I discovered Nintendo 64. (Although, Sam did admit that he dabbled in video games as well.) Not only that, he captained the Syracuse lacrosse team to a national championship, an achievement he claims was a long time dream of his. With an option to go pro, Sam decided to pursue the arts in New York City. I would say that it has certainly paid off thus far, and he’s still a very young man. They say if you put your mind to something, you can accomplish anything. As far as I can tell, Sam has mastered this ideology. His next feat? Metal sculpture.

While walking out through the lobby of the Chelsea, a stranger complimented his tape sculptures. Of all the criticisms that may arise from his experimental work, a simple moment like that makes it all worthwhile for the humble artist.




  1. Regarding Sam Bassett’s ‘new’ documentary, “Storme”, its not so much the film’s message that’s objectionable — its the messenger — and what Bassett conveniently omits from his story are the ways in which he’s very carelessly contributed to Storme Delarverie’s incarceration in a Brooklyn nursing home while he pretends to be an activist for her cause.

    It was Bassett who accompanied Storme to Court for a competency evaluation in 2009, and insisted upon becoming her legal guardian. This, of course, was prior to Bassett’s own eviction from the Hotel Chelsea. Rather than guardianship, Bassett was granted a degree of oversight and the court placed merely two stipulations on Storme which, once accomplished, would result in her stabilized monthly rent being paid by charitable organizations, and a return to normalcy.

    That pair of stipulations were:

    1) She was to clean up her living quarters to some degree and,
    2) She was to receive a basic medical checkup.

    Bassett volunteered — as a matter of record — to assist Storme with these tasks. But whether because he didn’t get the media attention he craves or for some other reason all his own, Bassett essentially abandoned the woman — and the court’s directives along with her. Bassett did precisely nothing to assist Storme in the coming six months while he fought for his own survival as a Hotel Chelsea tenant and moved on to his other “documentary” subjects. Bassett communicated with none of Storme’s neighbors working to assist her on a daily basis, nor those holding Ms. Delarverie’s power of attorney, and he left the court to assume that the relatively simple tasks it appointed to him were being accomplished.

    It was only when Storme fell ill from dehydration in March 2010 that the true impact of what Bassett had done — or rather, what he hadn’t bothered to do — became felt. And then Bassett himself was gone from the Hotel Chelsea, his signature affixed to an overdue rent stipulation and Storme shuffled off to a run-down facility whose only qualification for keeping her, according to her former caseworkers at SAGE, was that they had an open bed.

    So once more Sam Bassett wants to be a champion for Storme’s rights.

    Perhaps more accurately, Bassett is a champion for his half-finished film project, and he’s still searching for an ending. While Storme’s case is one that revolves around legal standing, Bassett shows his colors by soapboxing on behalf of his film instead of using the court-appointed oversight he lobbied for to engage lawyers and force this dispute back into a courtroom where it belongs.

    The truth is that if Sam Bassett had spent half the time helping Storme as he did snapping cameras in her face, she most certainly wouldn’t be where she is now. There are many others who share this perspective — folks who don’t have a stake in promoting themselves or their photography books and films. Only Storme’s well being.

  2. sam might be a somewhat talented photographer but his films are crap, you seriously call those films?!!! stick to your photography buddy.
    and this tape art is a joke, its not innovative, its not new, its not daring, and its nothing to praise. I would think after living at the chelsea hotel for so long he would have come up with something a lot more inspiring and mature.

  3. Thank you so much for profiling this prolific up and coming artist. I love the choice of title for this piece. Sam truly is a prince and I’m very happy to see him get the recognition his work deserves.

  4. How much do you pay in rent MIA….quess what – even if its in print – I could care less…
    That’s why haters don’t make any sense — instead of fully appreciating the ambition of a young inspiring artist, who creates to inspire others…
    your jealousy rears its ugly head…seriously your post is tacky

  5. I love this guy and his work!! We attended a film screening on his rooftop in the summer and needless to say…his films are phenomenal!!!
    Keep rockin’ Sam!!

  6. Seems weird that you know how much rent he pays – this sounds like personal hatred to me.
    Sam has been working in the art world for quite a long time. His work in film and photography has been revered by art critics and publications world wide.
    To reduce his talent to what he pays in rent is crazy.
    He actually works…and gets paid then pays his rent – like the rest of America….

  7. He pays 7500 a month in rent. But rips off everyone he works with.
    And pulling on heart strings. He has no shame. LOL

  8. “Prince of the Art World”?! PLEASE. Parasite more like it. I’ve seen better work produced by high school students. Tape ‘art’ ?! PLEASE. Again, nothing remotely original there.
    Sacrifice his existence?! PLEASE. Trust fund child. Who pays his $7500+ monthly expenses?!
    Blah, blah, blah, blah.

  9. Well pointed out Tristan! I thought there was a compelling reason why we decided to feature Mr Bassett as the ‘rising prince of the art world.’ Let’s hope that he continues to inspire us.

  10. Dear Delia….
    Sounds like alot of hate – you should try congratulating a young artist who has sacrificed his existence to place himself at the helm of the art world —
    so I guess that Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Arthur C. Clark and Mark Twain were sellouts too —
    Go LEARN some history —
    Your comment screams hate….
    I’ve been following Sam’s films and they all give a nod to history as does the rest of his work….
    educate yourself Delite-
    and how can one be a artist-wannabe???that means that he wouldn’t be creating…and his work would not be featured in the multiple magazines that employ him —
    Anyone who takes time to spread hate…no wonder you don’t “get” Sam’s work….

  11. scam, scam, scam. bohemian bourgeoisie skater loser turned artist-wannabe. the fact that he has a studio at the chelsea hotel screams SELL OUT. tape art genius? please!

  12. Thank you for this article and background information on Sam Bassett! I’m continually impressed by Sam’s ability to push boundaries and cross mediums. During a time when most artists are playing it “safe”…I’m glad that Sam isn’t afraid to create socially engaging artwork — renegade style!

    Really looking forward to following his career…

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