#DaddyWillSaveUs, the pro-Donald Trump art show put on this weekend by Milo Yiannopoulos, Lucian Wintrich, Martin Shkreli, and Gavin McInnes, was pretty anti-climactic. After they had been thrown out of The Boiler gallery in Williamsburg, the bad boys of conservatism went scrambling for another venue, renting an empty room in Gallery 151 as an event space for the night. As The Boiler did, the Gallery 151 owners say that it was presented to them as a satire, with some of the more easily googled names having been left out of the description. Quickly after the event started, a slew of signs went up saying, “The Gallery in no way supports Trump and the entire rental fee for the evening will be donated to the Hillary campaign.”
The show was underattended, with an inordinate amount of security and event staff all donning black Fred Perry shirts with bumblebee yellow stitching. The art was unmemorable. One wall was covered in Lucian Wintrich photos of young gay men wearing “Make America Great Again” hats with their dicks out, reminiscent of decade-old American Apparel ads. Martin Shkreli presented a red and blue pill in a small frame on top of a white podium selling for $20,000. The price tag didn’t stop security from knocking the precious piece over while slamming a lone protester, wearing a Che Guevara beret, out the door. A few minutes later, someone picked up Shkreli’s pill off the floor and placed it back on the podium.
After Milo writhed around in a tub full of pig’s blood to the delight of the 40 or so fans holding their cell phones up, there really wasn’t much to do except chat with Martin Shkreli, probably the most infamous of the attendees and by far the most accessible. Even millionaires these days want to be pop artists, and Shkreli was quick to make the connection between himself and Georges Braque, saying that medicine was art. The goal, it would seem, was to create a safe space for rich conservatives to enjoy a Bushwick-style group exhibit even though, according to Shkreli, none of the art would actually be worth collecting. Shkreli was able to clearly consent to a taped chat for Deadspin even after he had had a few drinks.
Deadspin: Hey, I’m Deadspin.
Martin Shkreli: Deadspin?
MS: I’m Martin.
Deadspin: I’m Alex. So, what is this? What is this? What is this night? This event?
MS: I think it is a conservative celebration, or, uh, maybe pity party, depending how you look at it. Um ... conservatives in New York are not, uh, welcome or, you know, popular or, uh, the majority, and so it’s cool to get together and see like-minded people, overwhelmingly intelligent, nice people. It’s nice to share some art. Obviously this is not your average gallery, but at the same time there is art here and uh—
Deadspin: And the art: the American Apparel style photos, the Apple logo, the pig’s blood. Is this a trolling, liberal-media attention grab as well?
MS: Um yeah. I mean no doubt, no doubt. To have a real Trump-themed art show is going to belie a lot of what you would expect from your average gallery opening, or something like that. But as someone who is actually in the art world as a collector, this isn’t your average experience. But this is still a fun party and everyone has been great and um ...
Deadspin: The smart conservatives that I know aren’t big Trump supporters.
MS: Yeah that’s right, um, I think that ... you know, I wouldn’t classify myself as a Trump supporter as much as I would a Hillary detractor. Trump is sort of this very imperfect candidate, um, but at the same time we have checks and balances in our government that I have a lot of faith in and therefore I’m willing to vote for Mr. Trump, because of those checks and balances. And I think he is a reasonable individual, more reasonable than we give him credit for. He has a strong family unit that would, um, stop him from doing anything that was untoward and he has enough will and confidence to represent us well.
Deadspin: I don’t think it is his family unit that would stop him from doing anything untoward, I think it would be only the checks and balances in his way.
MS: I think his family—as someone with direct knowledge of the matter, I think his family plays a big, a very heavy role in everything he does.
Deadspin: How about the paralysis of the legislature?
MS: That doesn’t hurt us either. We don’t want someone who is gonna make bad decisions either, and I don’t think Trump is necessarily given to bad decisions. He is given to a caprice and whimsy that can be damaging from time to time and his family is very sober, very different from him, and his advisors are as well, and while I don’t count myself as one of those people I know many, many of his family and advisors and I think they’re extremely extremely smart and reasonable.
Deadspin: I don’t think whether his advisors are smart is in question, it’s more the ludicrous idea that a reality television show star with no experience—
MS: You know, George Washington had no experience and we started a great country together. Ronald Reagan had little to no experience. I think experience is overrated. You know, I’m starting a tech company and a lot of people are like, “How are you gonna start a tech company? You don’t have tech experience. If you worked at IBM for 10 years it would make sense.” I heard the same thing when I started my drug companies. “If you worked at Pfizer for 20 years it would make sense.” But me and Mark Zuckerberg started a lot of valuable companies and we didn’t need experience to guide us.
Deadspin: Mark Zuckerberg isn’t at the Trump art party.
MS: No, but the point is that experience doesn’t predict success, um, necessarily. He had zero experience and he started the world’s premier tech company, made billions of dollars without working a day at IBM or Microsoft.
Deadspin: What is the success that you think conservatives are looking for by electing Trump? Like what is the actual success?
MS: Well, haha, that’s a good question. In many ways, Trump’s success is image related. When my family came to America in the ‘70s, we grew to know Trump as the definition of success in America. His dealings and his transactions were immaterial and his ups and downs his trials.
Deadspin: So you think America needs Trump as a president for a moral booster?
MS: I did not say that at all. Hahaha. I think that is a leap. I don’t think America needs anyone as president as much as we must elect a president and we have two choices. Whether we wanted them or not, these are our choices. I think that he is marginally the better candidate, I don’t believe that he is hands down the better candidate. I have a personal distaste to Hillary. I met her when I was 25 years old and was representing hedge fund investors and I think she’s an obfuscator, I think she speaks in many ways, in, in double speak that is meant to sugar coat a reality that she is attempting to foist. I think Trump is a safer candidate, as crazy as that sounds. This country has a financial problem. We send out more money than we bring in. That’s called debt. We have a lot of it. She wants to spend more money. I don’t like that. Trump, by the way, is not exactly economically sober, um, by any means, but he is slightly more sober than her.
Deadspin: Does neither candidate talk about bringing more working class jobs back? Getting the Rust Belt working again? Neither candidate talks about doing that.
MS: That is a long story that I’m not sure I understand because we have the lowest unemployment in a very long time. I think Obama did actually a fantastic job. My conservative friends hate me for saying that, but I said it to Milo. I think actually if we have four more years of Obama I’d be quite happy. He did not raise taxes.
Deadspin: Who did you want before the primaries?
MS: I think Jeb Bush was actually a very credible candidate. Believe it or not, he actually suffered for being a Bush. He suffered for his timid personality. He suffered for all these things, but the reality is that if you look at his track record in Florida it was really good. He ran that state, which is a big state, really well and he is quite intelligent. But again he’s timid, he’s meek, he’s all these things, and Trump rolled over on him, um, rolled over him, and um, the rest is history. Jeb had a reasonable—very much—his history was successful. He had a Hispanic wife, that meant a lot in a country that is increasingly Hispanic, in a state that has to deal with immigration.
Deadspin: Would you have voted for Bernie Sanders?
MS: Hahahaha. Probably not, but I prefer Bernie to Hillary. If it was Bernie vs. Trump it would be a tough call for me, honesty.
Deadspin: Why is that? You’d take honest, even with socialism?
MS: Well, socialism is a strong word, um, and again, I refer to our checks and balances. Bernie said a lot of really great things. He was the only candidate to speak about mental health. My drug company was the first and only drug company to develop a drug for suicidality. Bernie was the candidate that talked about mental health in a way that was really inspiring. His interest in investing in education I think is really brilliant. Investing in our people to create an educated work place that actually delivers all the promise of the 21st century, something where America would come out ahead. Like the TARP program where Obama rescued our banks, rescued our auto companies. The U.S. made money on those deals.
Deadspin: Rescued or bailed out?
MS: And we made money, we invested, in essence. Bailed out—sure, but we invested, we gave money to these entities and we turned a profit on our investment, and we helped these companies, and saved the country. Brilliant! I think by giving away free college—it’s not the socialism that we think. It’s an investment which will propel us for people to have jobs as people who program in our 21st-century information technology. I think he had a lot of smart things to say. There is obviously a lot of things I disagree with him on but I think we could have found a compromise. Trump is a loose canon, nobody disputes that. I don’t think Trump disputes that. But he is more honest than most and there is something to be said for that.
Deadspin: So honestly do you think there is any art here worth collecting?
MS: No. Hahahahah.
Deadspin: Your piece included? The $20,000 pill?
MS: I think the point I’m making about my piece is that chemists are artists too, and our brush strokes are carbon and hydrogen atoms instead of reds and blues, but there is a lot of creativity. I was telling the gallery owner that there is a great chemist called [indecipherable] who just passed away and invented phosphate shielding chemistry technique and I used it in my art, and he is the Picasso and I’m the Braque but anyways, I used it on my molecules which I patented. And I had to take his art the same way Braque took Picasso’s art or any other Cubist mimicked Picasso. So anyways, chemistry is art and chemistry creates better living and vibrant life, and I’m so delighted to be a drug designer as much as I am an industrialist. In design by definition there must be art so ...
Deadspin: As far as drug art goes—you might have fans that I’m taking you away from—
MS: No, it’s okay.
Deadspin: Okay, um, as far as drug art goes, there is a larger social implication.
MS: Yeah of course.
Deadspin: Addiction, side effects, safety, courting of mental illness for profit over diagnosis, et cetera.
MS: Those are all bad things about the drug industry, but there are some great things about the drug industry, and one of the artists I collect did a number of pieces on pharmaceuticals. I have his pieces but I’ve drank a lot and I can’t remember his name. He’s a modern artist that is beloved. He did a famous skull ... his name is Damien Hirst. And—
Deadspin: You forgot Damien Hirst’s name. Hahahaha.
MS: I forgot it for a quarter of a second. No, I’m a big fan of Hirst and I was invited to go see his studio, and the point is that he used pills as a muse and I have some of those pieces. At the end of the day, medicine is undeniably art. Ecole or Brâncuși, a lot of people didn’t think that was art when it started, now it’s our most treasured art. You know a mobile or stabile, we laughed at these things and now they are our most treasured possessions so, you know, whether people define objects in space as art, I define atoms and their configurations in space as art. I understand that I am on the periphery of this idea, but I think medicine is art and the fact that it is utilitarian as well I think is important.
Deadspin: When medicine turns popular, when medicine is not prescribed but requested, that might be where you get into a murky territory making medicine into art.
MS: You know, the same way that the great architects, their buildings are artistic and what goes on in those buildings aren’t their responsibility. How we furnish medicine in this country and whether it’s fair or not—that’s not my pay grade. My job is to design drugs.
Deadspin: Technically, an architect’s job is to make sure a building is safe, sound.
MS: Sure, but it’s all artwork, and drugs are hopefully safe, too. Any drug I’ve ever made is safe and very useful. Whether our society says we are gonna sell these drugs for a lot or a little or for free or what—that is up to society, and that is up to our electorate.
Deadspin: What about marketing them, trying to deregulate advertising standards for them, and becoming popular as a product for consumers rather than a medicine that a doctor would prescribe?
MS: Well, every drug company is different, so I only focus on lethal illnesses. I think companies that focus on pain drugs and other consumer related drugs—they are sort of on the wrong side of science. We have a great number of scientific techniques, now we should focus on the sickest patients that really need medicine. The process of those drugs often have to be at astonishing prices, but the system tends to work well.
Deadspin: I assume you’re referring to the AIDS med scandal.
MS: The AIDS medication is comparatively inexpensive. My drug is about $25,000 for a full course. There are drugs that are $100,000 for a year. So when I thought about pricing my drug I looked at hepatitis. HIV and hep C are similar but not the same, and the new hep C drug is $80,000. That is more than most people in this room make in a year. We have insurance and negatives and ways we can spread that cost, and the drug has been used by millions in terms of hep C. My drug is needed very rarely, thankfully, and we have not seen any problems with that.
Deadspin: One more, or a few more, questions about the show. Talk to me about the event some more. Is it tongue in cheek?
MS: It’s much more of a nose-thumbing than it is an attempt at serious art, but I think the Apple logo is actually beautiful. It really is stunningly funny.
Deadspin: Who else here is in on the joke?
MS: I mean, everybody. I don’t think anyone is taking this too seriously as a fine art gallery. If you look at the pieces there is no denying that it’s art, but it isn’t what you would see at a normal gallery. That is fine. I don’t think anyone expected this to be anything but conservative happy hour.
Deadspin: So who are the other big conservatives here?
MS: Milo Yiannopoulos is here, Gavin McInnes, everyone here has a story and I’ve heard a lot of great stories here tonight. I’ve enjoyed everyone, everyone has been cool. All walks of life, wealthy former hedge fund people, students from NYU, gay, straight, all multi cultures, people from Australia. It’s fantastic.
Deadspin: They’re just all looking for a safe space as conservatives?
MS: Hahahah. Way to use that phrase? Most of us feel pretty safe in our own skin, but yes maybe a little.
Deadspin: Thanks. I think you have fans waiting.
All photos by the author, a video producer for Gizmodo Media Group.