Wait a minute...
What did you say?
I don't believe it...
After twenty years, my entire adult life, The Pop Shop is closing. No, I shouldn't be surprised. Sure, I should have seen it coming. Just look at Soho now – a giant vapid sidewalk mall. Back in 1985 no one was even sure where Lafayette Street was. But that was Keith – always the pioneer, always pushing boundaries. The Soho galleries vanished along with the every other non-franchise store in the neighborhood but The Shop remained.
I remember those early days, entering in wide-eyed amazement. I wanted ALL of it: the shirts, the radio, the inflatable baby, the endless buttons, the skateboards, the magnets, the prints for $200 each ("One set per customer please"). And not just stuff by Keith but also Andy, Futura, Kenny, Stephen Sprouse... Pick up a clip board and write down the codes of the things you want, chat with Izzy and Bipo while they get the order together then "Step down to the next window." Over the years I'd walk away from that window with every conceivable piece of Keith paraphernalia but I'd also leave with something much more important and longer lasting.
The idea that "an artist" was "a person" had never entered my mind in any but the most abstract fashion. Growing up in blue-collar middle class Brooklyn of the bankrupt 1970s, it was not an idea that had much opportunity to flourish in my world. It was Keith who changed that for me. Keith, a real person who I could see, speak with, dance with, smoke with, laugh with, and relate to, who gave that idea a life within me. And it was in The Pop Shop that the idea first began to take shape.
It wasn't until many years later that I would come to understand just how remarkable the concept of The Shop was. Artists who wanted to be "taken seriously" just did not do "things like open a souvenir shop" - but Keith defied the old guard nay-sayers. Defied them to dismiss him on any grounds.
Over the years The Pop Shop has been many things in my life: an inspiration, a hang out, an impromptu disco, a family gathering, a shelter, a memorial. Now I must prepare for it to become... a memory. But it will be remembered. Not just by me but by whole generation of once young people who were fortunate enough to help animate Keith's work and world.
We are his legacy and we will continue to be "open for business".