Kenny Schachter Gets Kicked Off Facebook and Looks for Good News in Ibiza
The Elections, Art Market and President Zuckerberg: Getting Stoned in Ibiza
I don’t holiday well. I get occasional anxiety attacks and elevated blood pressure when the sun shines too brightly and the inbox slows to a crawl. You’d be remiss not to feel at least some level of apprehension for the general state of things with institutionalized guerrilla terrorism on the rise and the spectacle of The Donald vs. Billary in what is unequivocally the most bizarre election—perchance ever—a mere ninety-eight days from the time of this posting. Oh, lest we not forget the doom and gloom blanketing the global economy, negative interest rates and a 30 percent hit for auction houses’ year-on-year earnings. So I ate a box of fortune cookies searching for good news.
What is there to do in historic times of social, political and economic unrest and dissension? Why, that would be guesting for a few weeks in the capital of club-land, Ibiza, with my four kids in tow with a yen for socializing (and a dear one at that). Though even in the mecca of magnetic fields, homeopathy, and endless quests for spirituality, only my family still managed to go aggro. My wife Ilona, a tad hypochondriac, would have a covert vitamin doc appear from thin air at dinners to shoot up whoever was in the house, except Gremlin, my pug. I called it an Ibicencan (a native or inhabitant of Ibiza) juice bar.
The Donald vs. Billary: What If?
The pledges of Hillary and Donald of what precisely will come of their first three months in office are beginning to snowball. Whatever the record is for most broken promises in a hundred days is about to be broken. Politicians have no shame (whereas, I have plenty).
No matter who wins we’ll all be pretty much doing the same as the day before the elections, but one hopes under the guise of sanity rather than control of a fucking unpredictable psychopath. More frightful than a Warhol wig, should Mr. President Donald Trump come to pass, I am setting up a bookmaker and taking odds on impeachment.
My primary concern, the art market of course (relax, I am playing, sort of) might not fare so poorly in such a doomsday scenario. You see, stock markets jitters are the art markets (there are lots) titters. Traders get off on volatility and what’s more precarious and dangerous than Donald? Despite the inevitable lack of change to unfold under her administration—please vote for Hillary—the known and knowable technocrat, better for peace, stability and world order (lacking the drama that my family and me thrive on).
In a Trump presidency (I hate to type it), art may very well become the default Federalized currency, he’ll make Brexit a burp—when I have second thoughts and retreat from a deal I call it a Kexit. The upside of a collectibles driven economic climate is that if you buy a classic 1960s Ferrari, in addition to the investment increase, you can make a fast getaway (if accompanied by a mechanic in the passenger seat).
Regardless of the outcome, we can only wish for a more inclusive, tolerant world characterized by a sense of humanistic détente. Let’s not burn bridges, but rather build more Crystal Bridges (as in the Arkansas museum infinitely funded by Wal-Mart)—the only museum outside of China buying up a storm in these stormy times.
Blocked from Facebook
Facebook (FB) just reported ad revenue earnings far exceeding expectations, rocketing 32-year-old Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth to a staggering $58 billion, ahead of even the Koch brothers (which can’t be entirely bad). On a slightly more prosaic note, I was recently banished, along with eight years of archives, from FB where I’ve been a member since my kids unwittingly signed me up back in 2008. At times, FB stirs thoughts, draws out ideas and I even get material—which doesn’t come easy at my age.
What was the transgression, you might ask (or not); merely something as innocuous as posting the pairing of a Picasso plate with a photo of (Vito) Acconci’s ass from his present MoMA PS1 40-year survey show. I know I am dating myself continuing to actively FB, but where else can you argue with the likes of UK critic Matthew Collings, which thread may last for…years. It’s the discourse and community (ok, many are nuts) missing from Mark’s Instagram; I am art and words, not solely images. Heaven forbid you engage someone other than pictorially on Insta. Not cool.
At first I thought it might be good, I have enough on my plate without having to serve up daily content apropos of nothing, but after a month I began to twitch. Ghost busters? No, I called Uncle Jerry (Saltz) to rectify the injustice of getting chucked without cause, more or less, for public posting (sounds perverse). As everyone knows by now, he might not be rich but he has a billion followers. Beloved Jerry is a relentless purveyor of medieval porn (and many other varieties) on the Internet, thrown off FB almost as much as my kids go out—not exactly, but you get picture.
Saltz recommended former gallery owner Doug Milford who abandoned ship many moons ago to the software industry, and who I haven’t seen in decades, since he was living his past life. Giving in to doing without, after about six weeks, I re-created an account, this time as Kenneth Schachter, which I think has a nice ring to it and which I should probably adopt it as my nom de plume. Doug said he was having no luck when 24 hours after my comeback, I received the following email:
I’ve received your Facebook report and have done an in-depth investigation into the blocks on your account. I have verified that there were correct removals of content on your account which resulted in your account being blocked.
If I could ask you to please log in and follow the steps as instructed, you will be able to log back into your account as read-only for 7 days. After 7 days, you will regain full site functionality back.
Please let me know if you have any questions and I’d be more than happy to help out.
Escalations – Community Operations
A very Kafkaesque correspondence ensued, in which “Mack,” acknowledging the “headache” resulting from getting unduly wiped and having thousands of friends and followers, I have all of three in real life, getting blocked for no apparent reason. I got many a random query in response. I wondered who this Mack was, and more so about his rank: Escalations – Community Operations sounds like a sci-fi suburban terror task force. Maybe he’s more menacing than mysterious.
How did Doug pierce the FB juggernaut? “I just lobbied high-level connections I have at Facebook,” he told me. “I pled your case till I became annoying enough to get them to deal with it, I guess.” It’s unfathomable that a company bigger than most countries micro manages 1.7 billion individuals. I rate Zuck a better presidential candidate than the slate we face. Can we get him to collect? Can I advise him? Hey Mack, are you listening?
Sotheby’s: Chen Dongsheng Gives New Meaning to Warhol’s Mao
From hindsight, it occurred to me there were hundreds, five-deep, manning the phone banks of the London May contemporary evening sale at Sotheby’s. Did they hire actors or grab people off the street to give the impression a mass exodus never happened. It did. But now I’ve had a turnaround (pun) and concede to prejudging (post-Amy-at-the-helm). For starters, Eric Shiner just joined after eight years at the Warhol Museum for the greener (as in money) pastures in the comforting belly of the market beast. Incalculable expertise to have onboard, excuse my nautically-themed indulgence.
Besides Dan Loeb and sundry other activist raiders (Steve Cohen among them) wrangling for influence over the house, a Singaporean online gaming investor, appropriately enough, has filed to increase his stake to 10 percent. Obsessive Sotheby’s fanatic Chen Dongsheng’s Taikang Life Insurance Co., owner of the second largest auction house in China, one-upped the bet and bought $233 million worth of shares, outgunning everyone in the process. And Chen Dongsheng is married to Mao’s granddaughter giving a whole new reading of a Warhol Mao.
A $100 million guarantee secured the Steven and Ann Ames collection with great works by Gerhard Richter, Willem de Kooning, Robert Ryman, and Philip Guston, beating out Christie’s for the material to be sold in New York’s November sale, another boost. Sotheby’s stock has come back strongly of late though still off levels a short time ago; whether it revisits the high water mark where a lot of hedgies expensively purchased shares, the jury is out—and Christie’s has yet to launch a summer salvo of their own, but Amy & Co. may come out smelling like roses, and hat’s off.
Surely, the mirth would not be lost on Andy that the card carrying communist party member, Mao’s granddaughter, has landed in the auction business selling Warhol Maos. And the former director of his museum is advising them. I could see and hear Warhol’s reaction: a dour, unenthused “Fab,” while secretly jumping up and down under the surface.
Not for estates, impending indictments and dastardly divorces, cajoling consignments nowadays requires the finesse of a magician mated to a midwife. Volume is trending down and will continue to do so before plateauing. When fresh and recognizable, i.e. strong brand recognition, stuff goes on the block, records tumble like the $58 million fetched for a Peter Paul Rubens sold to a contemporary client of Christie’s London in May—an instance of genre-blurring long alluded to by auction staff, but sluggish in actuality. This won’t stop anytime soon.
Art and Day-Clubbing in Ibiza
I had to have a puff (or whatever) of a joint before sitting down to this section to strike the chilled vibe Catalan-speaking Ibiza is notorious for; I draw the line at ingesting MDMA, which is practically dispensed in the baggage claim area of the airport. Ibiza is a rock island 10 times the size of New York with a population not much more than a hundred thousand, which swells to that of New York during the summer months with eight million crammed into five nightclubs (albeit the size of city-states) like chickens adjusting to a new coop pecking each other’s eyes out. Despite the best intentions, the closest I got was a photoshopped impression of what I might look like if I attended DC-10—the nightclub literally under the runway of Ibiza Airport—at 4am.
Don’t get me wrong, the craggy Ibiza landscape is colored and textured like sculpted COR-TEN steel and the surrounding water of the nearby island of Formentera is clearly as clear as a tropical paradise could be. The shrimp carpaccio seaside at Es Moli de Sal is otherworldly, and that’s saying a lot since, eating the same thing for six months at a time, I am no foodie.
But lurking is the slightly sinister throb of the bass, the rallying call of the island that looms like the threat of water torture, or the din of the Long Island Expressway. I’d blast it at Boko Haram like they did with Alice Cooper and AC/DC to flush out General Manuel Noriega and his wife in Panama City in 1989. Mid-lifers come to get high and regress to an infantile stage of psycho-sexual development; I know of one who jammed earplugs in before dancing to thwart the award winning sound system, the monster truck of the audio world. Help the aged.
It’s not as laid back as the chamber of commerce would lead you to believe (if ever they could). Going for a run, I was chased by a pack of unruly, stray Podenco dogs, indigenous to Ibiza; you’ve never seen a Jew move so swiftly. They didn’t seem amused about my fitness regime. On the property behind the house where we were staying was a scarecrow armed to the teeth automatically firing intermittent rounds of shotgun blanks, blasting away to frighten birds from grapevines, with the unintended effect that I felt like a soldier in a war-torn battlefield. My nerves frayed; what happened to chill?
The clubs sent Cartier scurrying a few years ago and no brands, other than for ecstasy, remain, which is a pleasant byproduct of barely controlled chaos. Ibiza is also known for the fact that it brings out the stupid in stupid people, many hailing from England. A friend of my 14-year-old, Sage, had the word Hash tattooed on his ass—not a total catastrophe—he can change it to #.
Richard Prince has announced his own bespoke strain of weed and rolling paper that he will unveil at an exhibit in the fall at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, pretty mad at any age, yet for a 66-year-old artist—it’s no less than inspiring. Of course there already exists a James Franco version. I strongly suggest a Prince pop-up in Ibiza. Pronto.
The captain of the little vessel we took to Formentara took great interest in meeting me, having never encountered an art dealer before on the island. It was strange, being that I found a handful in a matter of days. I guess they are too preoccupied, forgetting the downturn, to go boating. Presciently, the skipper commented that art was probably better in days of economic uncertainty because Picasso will always be Picasso—and go up. I couldn’t agree more.
Seems like a culture clash is brewing (if anyone could be bothered) of permanent and pop-up contemporary art venues cropping up alongside the meta- clubs, drugs and bed bugs (ugh, read on), always a precursor of gentrification. Accordion playing/stiltwalking/fire-eating busker Guy Laliberté who sold Cirque du Soleil (nearly 100m visitors later after launching in 1984) for billions is spearheading the way installing a sculpture park around Mercedes heir Mick Flick’s former ample estate and two year-round, contiguous exhibition spaces close by.
The former street performer has thrown his circus cash into the ring of the art circus with gusto and I’m all for it. Like fire, I can’t breathe if there’s no (art) oxygen. Oh and in the democratic spirit of sharing, you too can rent Guy’s house, unless you have to ask how much (it’s $130,000 per week if you have to know).
When I meet people on the beat, they frequently ask that I not write badly, but that’s kind of my shtick, though even I couldn’t find fault with the triple venue Jenny Holzer threat presented by Ibiza Art Projects and Lune Rouge, both Laliberté owned, in cooperation with Sprüth Magers Gallery (except with another batch of inscribed benches, but I’ll leave it). Prices ranged from $25,000 to $900,000 for an LED installation.
Holzer is an artist that never really touched me but these exhibits presented her works in the best possible (LED) light—it was an impressive, ambitious revelation. Ginormous examples of local flint stone, many purchased rock by rock across the island were carved with a wide variety of poetry old and new, and dotted the Cirque residence. As Dylan put it, everybody must get stoned (by one method or another), especially in Ibiza.
I’m a prude and don’t gravitate to art with a switch, I misplaced the three art DVDs I’ve purchased over the years that must have ended up in my CD collection, but the provocative US government texts of Holzer’s kinetic, metal beam suspended from the ceiling was foreboding and of the moment. It was concrete poetry in itself, reminiscent of early Vito Acconci and Art & Language, the late 60s conceptualists.
Madrid gallery Parra & Romero popped up in town in a roughhewn warehouse barely resistant to the weather, which nevertheless is sunshine, always, and an outdoor sculpture project curated by Jerome Sans, former director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing and cofounder of Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
Under the main tent were one-person shows by Robert Barry, shiny metal letters individually fabricated in rows on the floor and plastic, Plexiglas printed additional text wall works. Next door in the adjoining space were oversized black screen-printed canvases by Adam Pendelton, which my seventeen year old, Gabriel termed “Guyton-y.” Prices for works altogether spanned from $15,000 to $125,000 for Pendelton’s paintings.
The sculpture display in the yard was similarly formal and dry but something to behold in the context—behind the giant metal, oval-roofed shed. Featuring. among others, Stefan Brüggermann, an artist I first visited in Mexico City in 1996 as a 17-year-old when I was on a curating grant. Why don’t my kids get on it, though I did sell another of their paintings this summer? I go to Ibiza to get away only to be bombarded with text, text, and uh, more text. I didn’t realize people read here.
The polar opposite of the word works pervading the island was the 3D video projection of Marco Brambilla, $100,000 an edition, at La Nave Salinas located on the commercial salt mines and run by New York based 1980s dealer Lio Malca in another warehouse, a stone structure that resembles an old boatyard. Notwithstanding the annoying glasses, the film is an apocryphal kaleidoscope presenting the lifecycle of the end of history floating between a painting and popcorn entertainment.
And what island worth its salt would be without a Gagosian fingerprint? Here, there was “Cy Twombly: LUX” at the Museu d’Art Contemporani d’Eivissa, rather grandiose nomenclature for what is a stark, Ritz Mini Cracker-scaled architectural gem, in contrast to the old city where it’s located. In Ibiza style, where cancellations are rampant (a factor of the lifestyle), I missed the Twombly exhibition which was not more than editioned photographic ephemera from the master painter and sculptor.
While my four children were all out day clubbing (what else before night falls?), even Sage, the audacious 14-year-old, arms flailing towards the sky in bacchanalian ecstasy (I hope that’s all it was) my arms were also up in the air, but more in anguish at their lack of initiative; as a consolation, I settled for dancing as the closest approximation to aerobic exercise they’ve partaken in for years.
With a lengthy track record of sketchy residents, including John Simon Ritchie (aka Sid Vicious), it’s no surprise that dirty deeds are afoot, constantly, and that I left Ibiza possessor of a plethora of nasty bedbug bites, more spots than Damien has in production at any given time. I showed my artnet editor a pic to which she replied: “Yikes! Hope you got rid of them.” Encouraging, thanks.
Undaunted by the onslaught (I’m itching now), I was seduced. How could I not be considering 15th century prognosticating trend forecaster Nostradamus predicted Ibiza would be the Earth’s final refuge? And urban myth has it that the wind patterns of Ibiza will be the only safe heaven from a nuclear Armageddon. I’m in.
Circling back to FB, despite the enormity of what possessing the ultimate power base of the world’s personal details may imply, here is a sweet poem by Mike Watson, one of my virtual “friends” (I take them any way I can get them) that touched me:
And now you’re back
From cyber space
I logged in to find your bits here scattered throughout the place
And now there’s no more Kenneth Schachter up in The Monkeydome
I should have known, if for a moment, you’d find your way back home.
Yes, art is home, whether in the studios, ether of social media, museums (public and private), galleries, fairs and yes, even the auction houses; and after a quarter century in the trenches, I count myself fortunate to remain.
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