Don’t Panic! Hard Partying Days Behind Him, Pop Artist Peter Tunney Gets Spiritual

Pop artist Peter Tunney isn’t crashing at Crobar anymore.

These days, the 48-year-old reformed nightcrawler fantasizes about waking up at the Strand!

My wife, she reads. I go home and watch [Ultimate Fighting Championship],” explained Mr. Tunney, pointing to his recent painting of a large chalkboard with the phrase “I must read more books” written over and over in neat, elementary-school-teacher script, one of several new works now on display in his spacious studio at 666 Fifth Avenue.

I used to read a lot of books, but you know, you get kind of swept away in the world,” he said. “Finding time for quiet reading in New York City is very difficult.”

On Wednesday evening, May 20, Observer publisher (and 666 Fifth proprietor) Jared Kushner, designer Donna Karan and the Cabalist Michael Berg host a reception and private viewing of the artist’s latest works titled “The Peter Tunney Experiment,” with proceeds from sales benefing the charity Spirtuality for Kids.

“The goal is for kids to have a class basically called Spirituality 101,” Mr. Tunney said. “I think it’s such a great idea. It might be the most needed thing for everybody. The big collapse we had, the Bernie Madoff story, all the other stories like that, if you were to really analyze that intellectually, you would see that there is a breakdown of morality and spirituality along the way. These aren’t typos or accidents or anything like that. These are people saying, you know, Screw it! I’ll just do it. I know I shouldn’t, though.”

The day before the show, Mr. Tunney was traipsing about his studio, dressed in khakis, a light blue shirt, and a pair of white sneakers splattered with purple paint, using an unlit cigar as a pointer to show his young helpers where to hang everything.

It’s a room screaming with messages: “Inspire,” “Remain Calm,” “We live in a beautiful world,” to name a few; each one with it’s own story that the artist is all too happy to tell.

Consider his “Finding Calm in the Chaos” painting. “There is chaos in the world,” Mr. Tunney said. “There is insanity out there, there is murder out there, there’s child abduction, and it’s all going on every day. It’s been going on for a long time. It might get worse. It might get better. I don’t know!”

The artist speaks from experience. Once featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, the former Wall Street whiz wound up losing millions during his hard-partying days, palling around with the notorious photographer Peter Beard.

He’s settled down quite a bit since then, getting married and moving to Long Island.

Given the recent financial turmoil, he said he’s been selling a lot of “Don’t Panic” and “Stay Calm” paintings.

“I should have been dead 10 times about 25 years ago,” Mr. Tunney said. “I’m happy to be here. I came out of Crobar and became sober. Who would suspect that? You’d figure you’d go dead. But yeah, 10 years with Peter Beard, one year in Crobar, and then go sober. That was my routine.”

He let out a little laugh. “But I did another painting that said ‘Enough is Enough’ and enough is possible.”

Don’t Panic! Hard Partying Days Behind Him, Pop Artist Peter Tunney Gets Spiritual