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What Curator Larry Ossei-Mensah Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: Photo by Aaron Ramey

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair but the hair spray and the electric toothbrush. We asked art curator Larry Ossei-Mensah — a co-founder of ARTNOIR — about the bike, condiment, and deodorant he can’t live without. 

The way my life is, I need a durable bike — one that can handle a mountain trail and the West Side Highway. This lets me get around relatively quickly but also rediscover New York in a meditative way. I ride along the Hudson River and look at the landscape, the bridge, and the lighthouse. I also began to realize other friends had bikes, too, so I reconnected with people and invited new friends riding.

This is a book of an exhibition that I was scheduled to see in Chicago, but because of COVID, I was never able to see it. I think Duro, the Nigerian-born British fashion designer, is the ultimate creative. Part of me aspires to put things together the way he does, because he can take these very complex, disparate ideas and just make it look elegant. I’m concerned it’s going to go out of print, so I’m going to buy a couple of copies and give them to artists and friends.

I think I was using Secret or something and my friend was like, “You know, that product has aluminum that can contribute to cancer.” So I started using Aesop by mixing it into my routine, [alternating it with] Suave and Secret, which I then phased out. When I went to Mexico, I was concerned with it failing and then I’d have this incredible B.O., but it didn’t. It’s another effort to take care of myself. It’s a suggestion from a friend, which makes it feel almost like a keepsake of that relationship.

I got a record player last Christmas, and I’m beginning to build my personal collection of music. There’s something different about hearing Sade on vinyl versus through my Sonos. The sound quality is more organic. And it’s a full collection, not piecemeal. It transports me in time and makes me calm. I’ll put it on as ambient noise when I’m writing or reading because it helps me concentrate. Some days, I’ll have CBS This Morning on mute, Sade playing, while making an omelet. I’ve got my Byredo candle going and it’s super zen. It makes the mornings sacred because once you start your day, you forget to make time for yourself.

One of the co-founders of Ghetto Gastro, Jon Gray, is a good friend and like a little brother to me. To get these collaborations is not easy, so I wanted to support them. The design is beautiful. Many of the items in the collection are named after freedom fighters, so there’s this social-justice component to it, even though it’s subtle. This is the first time in my life I’ve had a toaster where I don’t have to smoosh bread to make it fit.

I’ve known this Ghanaian artist for about ten years, and she has a show at the Tate Britain (ending May 31). This is the book for that show. I study her paintings because I mentor a lot of young emerging artists and want to give them advice, and she’s one of the best. It’s a big deal for her to have a show at the Tate Britain and not the Tate, by the way. It’s like the equivalent to showing at the Whitney versus the MoMA.

This Pinot Noir is easy to drink, inexpensive, approachable, and versatile. Its name is a play on “O.P.P.,” by Naughty by Nature. I met my friend, sommelier, and Maison Noir founder André Hueston Mack years ago. He was a sommelier at Per Se for five years and the first person to introduce me to the intimate world of wine. What I like about the brand is that André’s an Everyday Joe, but knows the wine industry in and out — this wine reflects that.

With COVID, it’s been hard to get massages, so to be able to do this on my own prevents injuries. It’s part of a rubric of things I use after riding and just in general because, as you get older, you are more inclined to get injuries. This allows me to massage my quads and calves while I’m watching TV. Or sometimes I have back problems from sitting in front of a computer, so I can manually use this. It’s all part of overall health—you can wake up lethargic and creaky, but you have the choice to not have that happen. This is my active way of doing that.

Colgin Liquid Smoke

I was watching Tabitha Brown one time and she was like, “We’re going to make carrot bacon.” Then you see her doing it and she uses liquid smoke, and I’m like “Oh, sh—!” Sometimes I’ll just chop a bunch of vegetables — add olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, shallots — and then top it with some liquid smoke. It’s almost as if you’re barbecuing.

Last year, I started getting into meditation more consistently. In this time of pandemic, it’s easy to fall in and out of awareness, so how do you maintain some kind of consistency? So in the mornings, when I wake up, I’ll throw on one of the Mooji meditations and just let him talk. It’s a good way to set my intentions for the day. COVID has taught me the importance of just giving yourself time. I always ask friends, “What special thing did you do for yourself today?”

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What Curator Larry Ossei-Mensah Can’t Live Without