Rene Ricard, the Massachussets-born artist and poet who was a fixture of New York’s art world since he arrived in 1965, has died. He passed away early this morning in Bellevue Hospital. Nearly anyone who was in the art world for any length of time knew Rene. “This is an irreplaceable person,” said artist Brice Marden. “He was really something, just on all ends of the spectrum.” A member of Warhol’s Factory, Ricard appeared in iconic films including Kitchen (1965) and Chelsea Girls (1966) and even played Andy in The Andy Warhol Story (1967) alongside Edie Sedgwick. He may be best remembered for his influential essay “The Radiant Child,” which appeared in Artforum in 1981 and effectively launched the careers of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and for his collections of poetry. The Tiffany-turquoise volume Rene Ricard 1979-1980 was The Dia Foundation’s debut publication. He was played by Michael Wincott in Julian Schnabel’s film, Basquiat where he delivers the film’s central message: “We’re no longer collecting art; we’re buying people.” In the last decade or so, Ricard was represented by Julian’s art dealer son, Vito Schnabel. I ran into him at the Basquiat show at Gagosian on Valentine’s Day last year with Joe Dolce. Running into him was like getting a “behind-the-music” tour of the show. He knew all of the stories about this one and that one and who paid what for which. No gallerist could have EVER touch his knowledge of Basquiat’s work. The encounter was, like Rene always was, kind of head-spinning, super-fun and exhausting, at the same time.
According to Brice, Rene was experiencing difficulty walking lately and went into the hospital about a week ago for a hip replacement. “When he went in they found there was all this other stuff,” said Mr. Marden, who added that Ricard’s death was really unexpected. “He was going to be starting chemotherapy, but he didn’t get it in time.” Brice visited Ricard in the hospital where he was surrounded by lots of friends, and said Ricard had been in good spirits. “When I saw him he was really up to it all. He was obviously in bad shape but he was really enjoying the company.” Wow. He had weathered SO many storms that I truly thought, like many did, that he was invincible. None of us are – and they REALLY aren’t making them like that any more.