What’s my Weekend NYC: David Buckingham

American artist David Buckingham hangs out in his favourite city

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I spend my days in a welding studio in the bowels of downtown Los Angeles, so a weekend in New York is a welcome change of pace, a chance to catch up with old friends, see some art, and reconnect with the greatest city in the world (sorry, Los Angeles).

A lot has changed since I left New York and I don’t care much for the glass-and steel behemoths that have replaced much of my old playground. So I try to spend my limited time getting some of that old NYC vibe before yuppies and real estate goons get to the rest of it.

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Friday night usually finds me downstairs at Peasant, below, (194 Elizabeth St, 001 212 965 9511, peasantnyc.com), a charming rustic basement room with brick walls, candles, and terrific Italian dishes (try the rabbit lasagna). It’s cosy enough that you can actually talk to your friends without the assault of background noise cutting in on your chat.

If it’s packed-to-the-rafters at Peasant, I make a pilgrimage to Basta Pasta (37 West 17th St, 001 212 366 0888, bastapastanyc.com), a Japanese-Italian fusion restaurant with a uni pasta dish to die for and a parmesan pasta that’s made tableside in a giant wheel of cheese. I always go with my good friend Amy; I gorge while she picks at her food and bitches about her ex-husband (but we still split the bill).

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After dinner it’s time for some music, and I’ll check the listings to see if my friend Risa’s band Jesus H Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse is playing, often at the Living Room (154 Ludlow, Lower East Side, 001 212 366 0888, livingroomny.com) or Joe’s Pub, below, part of the Public Theater (425 Lafayette St, 001 212 967 7555, joespub.com). JHC and the Hornsman are cerebral yet rockin, all roaring guitars and celestial horns, with songs like “Connecticut’s for F*cking” –a real ripper. Also close by are Irving Plaza (17 Irving Place, 001 212 777 6800, venue.irvingplaza.com) and Mercury Lounge (217 E Houston St, 001 212 260 4700, mercuryloungenyc.com), two solid venues where I’ve seen many memorable acts over the years.

Saturday mornings commence with coffee, of course, often at Porto Rico Importing Company (201 Bleecker St, 001 212 477 5421, portorico.com), (best roasters in the city), then a stop at the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue and Houston to sip my medium roast and watch the roller hockey players. I used to play here every afternoon and some of the old-timers are still there skating, actor Tim Robbins being one of them. (Just look for the tallest guy out there).

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Then it’s off to the Union Square Farmer’s Market (1 Union Square West, 001 212 788 7476, grownyc.org/greenmarket) for fresh produce and artisanal cheeses from upstate New York, plus the best apple cider in the world. Apple cider just doesn’t seem to exist on the West Coast.

The Strand Bookstore (828 Broadway, 001 212 473 1452, strandbooks.com) is another favourite haunt. I always start with the art books and then free-associate my way through the aisles, reading while standing up, unless I’m lucky enough to score one of the few chairs. The Strand is like a physical internet: it’s all there, you just have to find it. Walk in with an empty mind, leave full. It can get pretty crowded, especially on weekends, agoraphobics beware.

After art books, it’ time for the real thing, so it’s into a taxi and off to tour art galleries on the Lower East Side, which I find more personable and accessible than the market-driven, gargantuan spaces common in Chelsea. White Box (329 Broome St, 001 212 714 2347, whiteboxny.org) is an experimental, multi-purpose arts space - always interesting, sometimes head-scratching, but worth a visit. It’s right across the street from the home of the founder of the Rivington School, “Cowboy” Ray Kelly - the bloke who ruined my life by introducing me to metalworking in the early 90s, when New York was more like the city you see in Taxi Driver than the way it is today. Also worth perusing are The Hole (312 Bowery, 001 212 466 1100, theholenyc.com), Jack Hanley Gallery (327 Broome St, 001 646 918 6824, jackhanley.com), and Miguel Abreu, above (36 Orchard St, 001 212 995 1774, miguelabreugallery.com).

After I’ve stolen enough ideas at the galleries ('Good artists borrow, great artists steal' –Picasso), I make a beeline for Katz’s Deli (205 East, Houston St, 001 212 254 2246, katzsdelicatessen.com) for old-school pastrami in all its smoky, briny glory. Be sure to tip the guy making your sandwich, he’ll reward you with a taste of fresh pastrami, offered up on knifepoint. And while you’re there, 'Send a salami to your boy in the Army.'

I’m always reluctant to leave Manhattan, but Peter Luger’s Steak House (178 Broadway, Brooklyn, 001 718 387 7400, peterluger.com) often brings me out to 718-Land for an artery-challenging steak dinner in a clubby, classic NY steakhouse - get the porterhouse for two. It’s not cheap, and they don’t take plastic, but there are no three-card monte games on the streets of New York anymore, so I have a bit more dosh these days.

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Another must-stop for me is always at Sacha and Olivier Salon, above (6 West 18th St, 001 212 255 1100, sachaolivier.com). I’ve known Olivier Mikhailoff since he arrived in the USA –he used to cut my hair in his kitchen on the Bowery, pre-salon days - and we always have a chat en francais and invariably I end up in the chair. And I invariably leave looking better than when I walked in.

Andy Spade is another old friend, and the co-founder of Kate Spade; his latest endeavor is Partners & Spade (40 Great Jones St, 001 646 861 2827, partnersandspade.com), a conjoining of repurposed flea market oddities and branding think-tank, and a shrine to Andy’s unfettered imagination. Andy’s recently started a pyjama company, Sleepy Jones (312 Bowery, at The Hole Gallery, 001 212 260 3821, sleepyjones.com), and I’m seriously thinking of never wearing real pants again.

My studio attire generally consists of tattered Carhardt work pants and filthy T-shirts, so when I’m in New York I always stop by the Union Square location of Agnes b (13 East 16th Street, , 001 212 741 2585, usa.agnesb.com), for simple, well cut, timeless clothing. (Perfect for burning up in studio…) Then I make a stop at Cego Custom Shirtmakers (246 Fifth Ave, 001 212 620 4512, cego.com), where Carl Goldberg has been making shirts for me for more than 20 years. Wander the aisles, feel the multitude of fabrics ('Is that Sea Island cotton?) and let Carl make you look like the Duke of Windsor.

And then, too soon, it’s time to get back to Los Angeles. And back to work.

Collected by Gwen Stefani, Perez Hilton and PRADA, David Buckingham was working as a copywriter in New York in the 80s when he met sculptor Cowboy Ray Kelly (Mark Rothko’s former painting assistant), who introduced him to his influential East Village art collective, The Rivington School. Buckingham moved to LA in 1999, and has been working in metal and sculpture there ever since, using materials scavenged from abandoned cars, trucks and machinery that he finds in the Californian desert.

Scream gallery will hold his inaugural exhibition from 21 Feb - 29 March, screamlondon.com

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