MTV Benefit Auction

Richard Phillips Brings Rock 'n' Roll to Dallas

In advance of his first U.S. solo show at Dallas Contemporary, Pop artist Richard Phillips has been chosen to curate the music for this year’s MTV RE:DEFINE benefit…and he's bringing rock back.

Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

After causing a stir in Texas last summer with his “Playboy Marfa” sculpture, artist Richard Phillips is returning to the Lone Star State this month as the music curator for MTV RE:DEFINE, a benefit auction happening in Dallas on April 4 for both the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and Dallas Contemporary, which is also the location for Phillips’s first solo museum show in the U.S., “Negation of the Universe,” opening the following week.

“I have a history with Dallas. My second exhibition of paintings happened there in 1997 at a gallery in Deep Ellum — Turner & Runyon Gallery,” Phillips says. “Ever since then, I’ve maintained a strong connection to Dallas, both with my art, and with philanthropy, which Dallas — certainly in this country — is one of the absolute leading cities in terms of art and philanthropy coming together.”

Organizers of MTV RE:DEFINE, which kicks off Dallas Arts Week, a week of festivities surrounding the Dallas Art Fair, approached Phillips to be the music curator after learning that it has long been a part of Phillips’s practice over the years. “Music has been involved in my artwork either in the scores for my films or the performances that have been staged at openings of my exhibitions over the years,” Phillips says.

Part of the proceeds from the art-meets-rock-and-roll-themed fundraiser will help out the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, which funds HIV prevention programs around the world, including Moonlight Ladies, a group of sex workers in Kenya who encourage their peers and clients practice safe sex and get tested for HIV. “It means that we’re going to be able to do more of the work in terms of finding and funding young leaders around the world who are able to work in their community and stop HIV infections within their own square mile,” says Georgia Arnold, founder and executive director of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation.

Phillips selected two bands to perform, including Starred, the Brookyn-based duo consisting of Liza Thorn and Matthew Koshak, which he first saw play in an intimate show last year in New York. “It absolutely floored me,” Phillips says. “They were one of the best bands I’ve seen in many, many years.” The other band Phillips chose is Black Bananas, led by Jennifer Herrema. “In Jennifer, you have an absolute rock god,” says Phillips, who also noted that a large percentage of his work was made while listening to her music. “She embodies the absolute pure spirit of rock and roll, and I mean that in every sense.”

“There was a great opportunity to awaken anew MTV’s relationship with the pure irreducible core of rock and roll, and that’s what I think I’m doing for the selections I made,” Phillips says.

Phillips’s survey at Dallas Contemporary opens on April 11 and will be the largest ever exhibition of his pop culture-infused work, featuring around 50 paintings, three films, and two sculptures. The controversial “Playboy Marfa” sculpture will be on display outside, as well as his painting of Lindsay Lohan in a Cynthia Rowley wetsuit clutching a surfboard, titled “First Point.” “It’s a painting that I absolutely love,” he says. “We’re very fortunate to have the loan coming from Europe, and I can’t wait to see the painting again.”

Also in the show are Phillips’s vibrant, glamour-injected portraits of pop culture icons Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, and Sasha Grey, as well as depictions of two politicians: Mitt Romney, and Dallas’s very own George W. Bush. “Politics and celebrity — there is a bit of eroticism in the show too, and also cultural critique,” Phillips explains. “It’s all a part of our presence in culture, our politics, eroticism, and culture are not separate. We tend to divide it up and we tend to partition them off and say that they’re separate, but quite often they’re not, and very impactful in surprising ways.”

Phillips hopes that his involvement in MTV RE:DEFINE will not only serve as a reason to become involved with a worthwhile cause, but will also “inspire younger members of the community to get involved to expose themselves to new music, new art.”

To bid online on works in the MTV RE:DEFINE auction, visit

“Richard Phillips: Negation of the Universe” will be on display at Dallas Contemporary through August 10, 2014.