Valley Guy, Part 1: Kenny Schachter Descends On L.A.—and Dishes on Art-World Ne’er-Do-Wells
Disgraced dealer Inigo Philbrick is now in a halfway house, our columnist reveals, in the first part of a weekly diary from Hollywood.
I have been to Los Angeles only a handful of times in my life, and barely that. Though I am drawn to car culture—I was born in the artless suburbs of Long Island and 1970s sports cars were my gateway drug to art—I am pathologically afraid of getting lost, and the industrial design of the vehicles appeals to me more than anything else.
Personally, it always made more sense to travel to Europe to experience culture than venture to the “other coast.” Until, that is, I was extended an invite for a solo exhibition at the Pacific Design Center (PDC) Gallery, the former satellite home of L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which came with a stipend and the use of the standalone building within the mid-1970s West Hollywood complex designed by Cesar Pelli. I saw no alternative but to accept. (I will now be driving a little 2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF that I rented for the next month. A lot.)
Getting down to work now, I’m getting my comeuppance. The beautiful, cavernous space was offered as an empty shell, with no infrastructure—other than lights—from February 7 through April 6, with an opening on February 13. Since the PDC is a stone’s throw from the center of activity in the city (I think), I elected to take the leap and move to L.A. for the entire month, despite my Woody Allen-ish fear and trepidation. Needless to say, I was homesick before I left; I am known to rarely leave the refuge of my veritable art sanctuary in New York without significant prodding.
Some of the reasons for my L.A. aversion are that I’ve wrestled with weight issues since the age of 5 (and still do), I hate the sun, and I’m movie illiterate. Love Story, starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal—the 1970 film, not the Taylor Swift song—remains my favorite. Since I broke the news to a few acquaintances, I’ve had feedback like “come to Corepower yoga with me!,” “Miley Cyrus, Jeremy Allen White [who?], and Johnny Knoxville live nearby,” “Hollywood rules this town. So become friends with agents/producers. And ppl love to talk about shows/movies so start binge watching!” I was doomed before I touched down.
Actor Matt Dillon (hey, I wouldn’t be worth my salt if I didn’t manage to drop a Hollywood name or two), who makes some pretty cool art, told me that the place I rented to live in Studio City is “over the hill” geographically, whatever that means. In any case, that’s funny because both Matt and I could be said to reside there. He turns 60 in a few weeks, and I already hit that milestone a few years back.
Before I fully take the plunge in next week’s diary entry, let’s revisit some pressing market matters that have since reappeared on my radar—like the notoriously make-believe institution the Dynamic Art Museum I previously wrote about, which declared bankruptcy last month. Speaking of which, check out Happy, the new print for my show, on fake art:
From Il Giorno, via Google Translate: “The Dynamic Art Museum . . . in a space in an elegant building in via delle Erbe, a few steps from the Pinacoteca di Brera and the Academy of Fine Arts, is now sadly closed. The company that manages the hall, Dynamicartmuseum Srl, ended up before the Bankruptcy Court of Milan, which declared judicial liquidation (a procedure which, according to the new rules, replaces bankruptcy), setting the creditors’ hearing for May to examine the passive state.”
The modus operandi of Dynamic and (many) other such operations seems to be the following (Dynamics has previously denied any wrongdoing): Find a buyer with or without money, get invoices based on the alleged intent to buy expensive art, secure inflated valuations that are as easy to come by as traffic in L.A., get fat loans, then default. The (wink-wink) lenders, who are oftentimes in the know, get their fees in advance, and everyone prospers. Except the original sellers are left holding the bag. And, to make matters worse, there is little or no recourse to recoup in these matters.
After my Dynamic article, a group of disgruntled (and rightly so) artists let me know that they were owed money by a gallery of ultra-contemporary art (admittedly a dumb term, but you get picture) with branches in L.A., Hong Kong, and Paris. Some are repped by this gallery, some used to be, and some had been waiting for years.
With a micro-burgeoning career as a practicing artist now, I certainly don’t want to spend the rest of my life chasing art-world ne’er-do-wells, which is nothing short of a full-time job, as there are simply too damn many to shake a computer at. I called the proprietor and made a simple threat: You have two weeks to pay up or you are going to be featured in my next Artnet News feature. Lo and behold, most of them have now been paid. The takeaway: Don’t underestimate the power of the keyboard, still.
I also recently got a call from a dealer who went bankrupt owing many of the artists they represented tons who proceeded to discuss his dinner at a ritzy restaurant the night before. And I just participated in the upcoming BBC documentary on Inigo Philbrick—who, incidentally, was released to a Rhode Island halfway house last month, on his way to an auction house near you in October. (After shunning the BBC’s repeated entreaties for six months, my kids convinced me it would be odd not to participate, considering my well-publicized exposure in the matter.) It all made me realize: Rob the rich, and you go to jail. But steal from artists, and you go to Cipriani—McDonald’s for the wealthy who don’t know any better.
That’s all, folks! For now… more to come on my L.A. (mis)adventures next week…
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