Kenny Schachter Has Some Choice Words to Say About Inigo Philbrick’s Arrest, and Now Turns His Attention to… Donald Trump
Our columnist Kenny Schachter also has some intel on Larry Gagosian's latest big (tiny) deal, plus the next destination of "Salvator Mundi."
We sure live in some fucked up times. Take New York City alone, in which the mayor, Bill de Blasio, is overplaying his hand in picking an unwinnable fight against the state’s wildly popular and charismatic governor, Andrew Cuomo, who in turn is locked in mortal combat with the president. (I can’t bring myself to type his name, let alone refer to him as our nation’s “leader.”) New Yorkers’ support for de Blasio has all but completely waned in a city still fortified against itself, with boarded-up storefronts everywhere while restaurants, retail, and offices remain COVID-closed, even as the rest of the world has already slowly reopened.
I remain very concerned as we head into an extended summer, foremost due to the fact that the people who will have to venture in the streets and go to work are the ones who can least afford exposure to the virus. Yes, the city and world will bounce back from these historic tectonic-scaled tragedies—global pandemic and a long-overdue awakening to sickening, murderous racial inequality—but it will take a herculean amount of courage and resiliency for the change to truly take effect.
After three months of unheralded death, disruption, and chaos, who will be the future hegemon dealing the cards at the world’s casino table, the USA or China? If you believe the conspiracists, the pandemic has been nothing short of a diabolical Chinese attempt the weaken the USA via biological warfare. Along somewhat similar lines, according to a largely unnoticed February 2020 article in the Swiss publication Luzerner Zeitung, an option to acquire 3.79 percent of MCH (the parent company of Art Basel) was recently purchased by Joint Proficient Project Company Ltd (BVI), represented by a Hong Kong lawyer and bearing traces “to an offshore company that leads to Adrian Cheng, a child of a billionaire dynasty, who runs the K11 art and commercial center in Hong Kong.” I contacted Art Basel honcho Marc Spiegler for comment, who referred me to PR exec Rebecca Taylor of Fitz & Co, who shuffled me along to Christian Jecker of MCH, who repeatedly failed to respond to my inquiries. Nor did Adrian Cheng respond, for that matter. Seems to me that there is a very good chance Art Basel will have a new Chinese taskmaster in the not too distant future.
Speaking of art fairs, we’ve gone from fair fatigue to online-viewing-room overdose. There seems to be a new Art Basel digital initiative just about every other day. If you are as screened-out as me, you might consider another form of addiction: watching some more TV, in this case the excellent new documentary Screened Out, directed by John Hyatt, in which he investigates our insatiable appetite to be sucked into an endless rabbit hole of smartphone usage. Not me—I fail to get anything remotely resembling the engineered-in dopamine hit that derives from the infinite scroll that is social media. Especially when I don’t have enough ready cash on hand to finish paying for the art I acquired pre-COVID. Thankfully, I have plenty to rub my nose against hanging on the walls already, which I do on a daily basis.
A short word on the capture and arrest of Inigo Philbrick in Vanuatu. (Hey, I’m American, can someone please point it out to me on a map?) Even though I’m personally out a small fortune, I can’t say I’m happy; yes, I was a little scared for my wellbeing—he made multiple veiled threats on my life, but more than anything it’s sad. Sad, to be clear, that he hurt so many people—and no matter how you feel about well-off art speculators, they are people too (more or less). It’s sad that my children got robbed of part of their inheritance. It’s also sad that such a bright and talented person would be blinded by greed and hubris and implode so spectacularly. It’s a shame, really. I would be shocked if I managed to see a dime back, and bet some works he squirreled away will be buried in perpetuity—or until he eventually gets out of jail.
In this hypocritical, corrupt world we live in, I have no doubt that Inigo will capitalize on our collective financial misfortune and turn it into a multimedia bonanza for himself. As far as my own movie and documentary projects, for which deals will be announced shortly, all I want and/or expect is that they make good on part of the money Inigo took from me. When I posted something on the subject, Adam Lindemann (who I admittedly like a lot, for some odd reason), responded: “Is a man known by the company he keeps?” To which I responded, “Yeah that’s why you and Inigo did a Mark Bradford deal behind my back after I introduced you.” I love my job. Oh, just before this piece went live I got five solicitations from art-ambulance chasing lawyers with empathetic wishes for my plight before beseeching me to sign on as clients. Who said art advisors were the worst? Oh right, me.
As widely reported, including in an uncharacteristically insightful New York Post article on the topic, Peter Brant sold Jean Michel-Basquiat’s 1982 Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump to hedge-funder Ken Griffin for $100 million, which will make a fine addition to his new $238 million New York condo, the most expensive home in US history. What the press failed to note was that Larry Gagosian, idling in isolation in his Hamptons compound (you needn’t shed a tear, it rivals Ken’s digs in size and extravagance) did something he rarely, if ever, does: settle for a minuscule commission in compensation for brokering the deal. A little birdie (not a certain jailbird, mind you) told me that Gogo settled for the shockingly small fee of only $1 million.
Turns out Larry G. and Peter B, two testosterone-fueled art-world behemoths, nearly the same age—75 and 73, respectively—don’t exactly get along, and that this was the only way Peter would consent to the deal. In 1990, Linda Evangelista infamously said she doesn’t get out off bed for less than $10,000 a day, and, likewise, Larry doesn’t get out of bed for under 20 percent—unless, that is, all 18 of his galleries are closed (which they were at the time of the transaction) while his 300 employees remain on payroll.
About the only thing that hasn’t changed over the past three months is the art-accumulation tactics of Stefan Simchowitz. Just when it was announced that a brilliant emerging painter in her mid-60s—it’s never too late to blossom—who I discovered on Instagram and showcased at Felix in Los Angeles in February is now being featured at Harper’s Books gallery in that major new art hub known as the Hamptons, guess who came calling? Simcho, the art-hustling, short-term spec-u-lecting flipper extraordinaire, whose pump-and-dump practices have dealt blows to many an artist, young and old. Here’s a direct message he wrote the artist [sic throughout]: “Please send me available material.if you like. Categorically will only buy direct from you. So if not possible.lets leave it.”
A few more bits and pieces before I leave you to it. We can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Leonardo da Vinci’s (or his studio’s, or his third cousin’s) Salvator Mundi painting will be disembarking from the Serene, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia’s yacht, to debut in Al-‘Ula, the desert kingdom’s pop-up insta-city, meant to be its latest use of cultural capital to lure worldwide art tourists—another case of good timing. After the disappearance and brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the travel poster should read: “Open your mind, not your mouth.” This journo will take a pass, thank you very much.
In an act of financial desperation, British Airways is selling off its collection: Get a YBA of your very own with the purchase of every first class ticket. (Its CEO should call Simcho, they’d get along.) A famous young contemporary artist directly messaged me the other day seeking payment of a lithograph I bought months ago but for which I have yet to pay. My delinquency was not the result of the crisis but because the production of the print has yet to be completed. That’s a new one: employ your artists as collection agency, as if they don’t already have enough to concern themselves with.
After three months in the same room in my New York home, during which time I managed to teach a class, make plenty of artwork, and finish uploading my archives to my new website (which will host a one-person show of Eva Beresin opening this week), I’ve begun to jump back on the hamster wheel. I’ve since traveled to London, now Spain, and next Berlin to help launch a pair of prints published by Johann König. Since my eldest came down with Coronavirus in mid-March, I’ve had five COVID tests (as nobody would let me visit without one). I’m aiming for nothing less than the Guinness World Record for virus swabbing.
Lastly, coinciding with the upcoming November presidential elections—I’d sooner vote for a corpse than Trump, which some say Biden resembles—I am preparing for an exhibition at a soon-to-be-announced New York venue. The project will be called “The I Fu*king Hate Donald Trump Headquarters,” and will encompass a faux campaign headquarters complete with posters, videos, paraphernalia, and a TV commercial that will air on NY1 cable TV. Lord help us ALL if the misanthropic orange menace is not stopped. Amen.
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