'Tony Bechara with Phong H. Bui' – The Brooklyn Rail
13 December 2023
Phong H. Bui (Rail): In knowing the complex, interesting and long journey you have taken, born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from an educated business family: your mother Rosa Martinez Vicens, her side has roots in Majorca, Spain, and your father Francisco Bechara, in Beirut, Lebanon; from having studied at Georgetown University both as an undergrad and grad student, for two years at Sorbonne University, only to return to study two more years at NYU. Can you first share with us such a history? How did all those experiences arrive at an apex of clarity, from which your pursuit to be an artist was determined?
Tony Bechara: It’s true that I have an unusual history, including deep roots in Mediterranean culture, but I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where I grew up for most of my youth, and my family is still there. I went to early school in San Juan, before my parents sent me to prep school in the states at the New York Military Academy. Francis Ford Coppola, Fairleigh Dickinson Jr., Stephen Sondheim, and unfortunately Donald J. Trump, are among those who have also gone there. My parents then sent me to study philosophy and economics as an undergrad, then studying law afterward at Georgetown University, too many schools I am afraid, partly because my parents would not send me money unless I was in a proper school. They deeply admire artists but didn’t believe I could make a living being an artist. Instead they wanted me to get a BA in business, then a law degree, then go back and work for the family’s business.
Rail: The usual story, of course! What next?
Bechara: I knew at some point that I didn’t want to become a lawyer, so I left at the tail end, then somehow I was able to convince my parents to let me go to study French history for two years at the Sorbonne, then spending a year traveling extensively in Spain, Italy, and elsewhere in Europe to see art at various museums, architectural landmarks, and so on. Then I was encouraged to return to New York City to attend another grad school for International Relations at NYU, while at the same time, due to what I was exposed to during my travels in Europe, I began making figurative paintings at night and on weekends while thinking the whole time about the prospect of being an artist.
Read their discussion in full via The Brooklyn Rail.
'Tony Bechara' opens at Lisson Gallery, New York on 11 January 2024.
Portrait of Tony Bechara by Phong Bui.