Tripoli Patterson

Dedication separates people. Dedicating yourself to that field, that dream and that vision you have is the great quality for success. I like when things develop organically. I put my first art show together when I was 20 years old, simply because I was friends with a lot of very talented artists and I had a following already from knowing people from surfing and parties—I always loved hosting, I love the idea of bringing people together.

That first show in 2005 happened very naturally. That propelled me to do my next exhibition, then I opened the gallery in 2009—it just came together. I love working with interesting artists and interesting people, from my collectors to the different curators to the dealers. All these unique, artists come my way, artists with unique visions and their own language and way of recording our existence—they are not only living, they are observing and leaving information behind for future generations.

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I spend the most time at the gallery, but I am really lucky in the sense that I have a big group of friends that all grew up together and we’re still very close. They aren’t people I do a lot of business with but it is very rewarding to get out of that business mindset and just talk about normal things, to give your brain a rest. In my business world, all of the artists I show are also close friends. Félix Bonilla Gerena—the Puerto Rican artist—has been staying with me to work on a Puerto Rico exhibition because they got totaled from the storm. I find that I always have people around whether it’s family or artists or collectors because my lifestyle is so intertwined with my work. Even when I am off of work, they are people I enjoy spending time with.

As well as prioritizing my business, it’s important to prioritize things that are rewarding in other areas. Surfing engages me—I am a physical person. If I don’t get that relief than I find myself frustrated in my workplace, I imagine that it would affect the outcome of business. It’s important to honor your personal life. If you’re not satisfied in that sense, it will come out in your work. It’s definitely something I’m continually working on finding.

If surfing has taught me anything about life, it’s humbleness. The ocean is a great force in that it teaches you how to hold yourself in the world and in business—you can only find your courage by going with the flow of the ocean and with the flow of life. In that moment, you’re catching a wave and putting yourself in a dangerous position, but trusting the Earth and trusting the ocean give you rewards in the end. Art and surfing have an international language in common. They are not bound by age or race or class or sex. It’s a universal language. An artist can speak to anybody. You can learn from art just like you can learn from the ocean.

I’ve been competing since a young age, but it comes to a point when you realize the competition is with yourself. Surfing is an independent sport in that way. It’s you against—or with—the ocean. There’s competitiveness in me from surfing, but the biggest challenge is defeating your previous wave or previous show. We’re really all up against ourselves.

I treat all my clothes like I treat my wetsuits and my surfing gear—it’s almost like equipment. I’ve been wearing Oakley since I was 16 years old. Oakley is a surfing brand so they don’t have high-end dress clothes for my professional/art life, but then I did an event with John Varvatos and they gave me some suits. If I were to buy a suit, I’d go there. It’s easy as a guy, if you need to dress up then you have a few go-to suits you can wear all the time. Working with so many artists, sometimes they’ll have clothes. I wear things that fit into that portray me: it’s a combination of a scarf my mother gave me from Bali and street clothes.