Valley Guy, Part 4: Kenny Schachter Returns From His L.A. Adventures With Frieze Gossip—and His Very Own A.I. App

Prepare yourself for the good, bad, ugly, and heinous sides of the art world (and market)—or forge your very own Kenny Artnet feature! With a friend, we inputted 1,000 pages of my writing to create a Frankenstein version of me and my voice to criticize you and yours. Photo courtesy of Kenny Schachter

As my monthlong L.A. sojourn came to an end on Monday, I spent the day stewing in soaking-wet polyester trackpants—the result of leaving the windows slightly ajar on my RF (retractable fastback, in car parlance) during one of the downpours too numerous to mention. (I had been savoring the fleeting sun.) The acclaimed California weather barely breached 50 degrees for the duration of my stay.

While still considering a move to L.A. (that was before I returned to New York and fully realized what I was missing), my house hunt continued. The last house I viewed was so vulgar I half expected a Phil Collins doorbell ringtone, only to be accosted by what appeared to be a sculpture of a young Don Johnson in the guise of a butler bent over the dining room table. I have evidence for any doubters.

Is that a young Don Johnson sculpture serving hors d’oeuvre in the house with the Phil Collins chiming doorbell? Photo courtesy of Kenny Schachter

And then there were the fairs. This year marked the sixth iteration of Felix and the fifth of Frieze L.A. (it skipped one edition during pandemic), and there was a bell curve of quality and business. However, the bell was markedly smaller this go-round. (Frieze cut its exhibitor list from 124 to 98.) However, the drama began, as it frequently does, outside the tent at the parties.

As previously reported by Artnet News, Alexander Ross, former gallerist and partner of dealer Tara Downs at New York’s Ross & Downs, has faced accusations of violence in the past. Last week, at a party organized by O-Town House, Lomex, and Gaylord Apartments, all great galleries, Ross was allegedly at it again. According to a witness at the party, Alex punched a partygoer before being subdued with mace. Just another fun night of art market mayhem.

Asked for comment, Ross said in an email, in part, “Whether or not I was involved in an altercation, or maced by an overzealous off-duty cop, seems a private matter involving contexts exogenous to the art world and alien to its relevant scope of coverage.”

Soaking up the sun in under-50-degree weather, stewing in my soaking-wet polyester track pants from leaving my windows open in one of the many downpours. Photo courtesy of Kenny Schachter

The unfortunate allegation makes others tales from Frieze seem tame: the dealer seen in her Frieze booth with a trace of a suspicious white powder on her nose, the dealer known to smoke opium on the way to manning his booth (at just about every fair that he does), and the dealer still reeling at an opening from the acid that kicked in the night before the fair’s opening.

But I digress.

The full Felix-at-the-Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel experience was described to me by a visitor as the equivalent of having the wind knocked out of you. The labyrinthian layout brought to mind Basel, Switzerland’s Liste fair, which used to be held in a brewery akin to a maze (not in a good way): i.e., annoying, exhausting, and impossible to navigate. Works displayed in the bathrooms were of the type that are typically bought on impulse and end up—guess where?—back in the toilet. Felix forecast: It moves into bigger, more rational digs and becomes as fungible (same-y) as the rest of the ancillary fairs it already resembles.

The latest in my ongoing photographic series: “Idiots at Art Fairs Wearing Sunglasses.” The L.A. edition is three volumes, including a few star turns. (It’s L.A. What do you expect?)

On the Frieze front, some significant dealers bowed out this time, like Sadie Coles (odd, considering how close she is to its founders) and Carol Greene of Greene Naftali—affirming the view that L.A. is a potential art machine in the making without enough serious buyers to grease it. Other galleries attended sans their principals, like Matthew Marks, who missed another opportunity to snub me, Larry G., Barbara Gladstone, and Jay Jopling.

Strolling through the aisles, you can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu. It’s as though the art world, in its infinite laziness, decided that innovation was too much of a hassle and settled for the equivalent of another reality show rehash. The booths, curated to eradicate any notion of risk-taking or genuine creativity, were as predictable as the insufferable traffic one sits in to get anywhere. But then again, L.A. is a city without a nucleus. And the same could be said of today’s art world.

Maybe I need to rethink my impulsion! To live and die (of isolation and traffic congestion) is a little less appealing in retrospect, now that I am ensconced in my New York home.

Let’s not get started on the Frieze “VIP” preview—a parade of the same old faces, many garishly clad in sunglasses (an essential accessory for art appreciation), with a smattering of the homogenous clique of celebrities that have become de rigueur since contemporary art became fashionable. The suffocating aura of self-congratulation that permeated the air, more nauseating than a blanket of L.A. smog, was as reflective of the city’s cultural tapestry as the exclusive gated communities that surround the tent.

The preceding two paragraphs were not just my work. They were the work of me and ChatGPT; or, rather, “us” in the guise of my new app, Kenny Schachter’s Criticize Me GPT! Sorry, I don’t come cheap, but with a ChatGPT Plus going for $20 per month (you use it to access my app), I am still (kind of) cut-rate. Once you sign on, prepare for the good, bad, ugly, and heinous sides of the art world and market, as you forge your very own Kenny Artnet feature! A young A.I. artist, Vittorio Maria Dal Maso, and I inputted 1,000 pages of my writing to create a Frankenstein version of me and my voice to criticize you and yours.

Anna Weyant, who was recently featured in GQ magazine, stated, “I have to resist the urge to make a portrait instead of a still life. I love still life, but sometimes I’m like, Oh, this is going to take the same amount of time and I could get twice the amount of money for it.” She should consider revisiting that genre, after all.

The bubbles are popping in Weyant’s meteoric market mayhem.

Cracks in the Weyant market surfaced this week when The Tale of the Tub, from 2019, sold for a below-estimate $50,800 with buyer’s premium, on an estimate of $80,000–$120,000, at Sotheby’s in New York. Astonishingly, the work went for a whopping $177,800 exactly a year ago. One has one to wonder if Gagosian might have been the seller.

Ronald Perelman, the legendary, combative corporate raider and litigator, 81, is still under (widely reported) financial distress, despite being bailed out by another market maven and fellow octogenarian, Carl Icahn. Fear not, he always lands on his feet. (An aside: Perelman once threatened to sue Dickinson Gallery after he put a work on hold at a TEFAF fair and then tried to buy it more than six months later, only to learn that — surprise, surprise — it had been sold in the intervening time.)

Oh dear, that was a close call! Grazed by a giant palm frond that fell from 30 feet overhead—a sign to make a quick getaway, and fast!

Though Perelman has been pursuing an amusing insurance lawsuit, claiming that his art was damaged in a fire at his Hamptons estate, he is not exactly waiting tables at Fleming, the restaurant he co-owns on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with famed eatery Le Bilboquet. Nevertheless, he is said to be (very) actively continuing his discounted art and design deaccessioning via multiple galleries and auction houses.

Back in New York, firmly ensconced in my veritable art refuge as I write — come visit! (kidding, sort of) — and with my L.A. art adventure firmly behind me, I have decided that the trip was as elucidating as it was wonderful. After burning through a set of car rims (I await the repair bill), nearly demolishing a combative 1950s architectural icon, and almost getting flagellated by a giant palm frond/branch that fell more 30 feet into my car, grazing my arm, I never imagined I’d feel safe to be back in the city. Some may have preferred a different outcome.

It’s Hans the man: in the flesh and in the metal. Oh the meta of it all!

The good news (for me, anyway) is that “I Object!,” my sculpture and video exhibition at the Pacific Design Center in L.A., will remain open to the public (despite my absence), from Wednesday to Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., through April 6. Exhausted, I’m off to teach at the University of Zurich next week—I could be the laziest workaholic in existence—and hope you’ve enjoyed the ride as much as I have.

Read Schachter’s first, second, and third dispatches from L.A.

Bringing down the house from Kenny Schachter on Vimeo.

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