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Art Curator Shaq Is His Own Masterpiece

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Despite holding down a demanding day job, Cleveland Cavaliers center Shaquille O’Neal has published two memoirs, cut six records, acted in seven movies, starred in a reality show, served as a reserve police officer, and studied for a doctorate in “human resource development.” Now he’s curating “Size DOES Matter,” an exhibition opening February 19 at the Flag Art Foundation in Chelsea. Shaq made 66 selections for the show—which features works ranging from the ginormous (Andreas Gursky’s billboard-size photograph Madonna I) to the microscopic (a Shaq portrait by Willard Wigan)—out of over 200 images that founder Glenn Fuhrman and director Stephanie Roach showed him over dinner after a game.

How did you make your choices?
Art is a process of delivering or arranging elements that appeal to the emotions of a person looking at it. It’s what you feel. I picked those things because they were beautiful. The thing about size—if it’s big or small you have to look at it. Because I’m so big you have to look at me. I think of myself as a monument. But sometimes I like to feel small.

Do you ever get time to visit museums?
I used to go a lot with my kids. Donald Trump is a great friend, and he has four or five Picassos on his plane. And that’s where I would look at them. One time, I was at a museum and tried touching a Picasso. You break it, you buy it, they said. I was told it would cost $2 million.

Have you ever tried painting?
No, but I’ve met a lot of artists who wanted to paint me. LeRoy Neiman was one. He did it from a photograph. He made 20,000 copies, and we sold them all. Now I’m working with the greatest artist in the world, Peter Max.

Do you buy art?
I have six kids, and if they ripped something, I’d be devastated. Maybe when they grow up, I’ll buy. I’d like Ron Mueck [whose Untitled: Big Man appears in the show] to do a sculpture of me. I would like to make it twenty feet tall and put it in the middle of a residential neighborhood—make it two stories high and in the head I’d have my office.

You like people looking at you.
Yeah. When I go to New York I like to stand in the street and see what happens. When you look at a painting and try to figure it out—you look at me [the same way]. Everything in the world is art.

Including basketball?
To me, it’s ballet, hip-hop, and kung fu. The ballet is grace, the hip-hop is cool, and the kung fu is kill the opponent.

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