As Coronavirus Upends the Art World, Kenny Schachter Hits the Fairs (and Shares a Convo With His Frenemy Inigo Philbrick)
Our columnist suits up to prepare for what is likely to be a bumpy ride.
We seem to be in the midst of some otherworldly, Kafkaesque, biblically scaled reassessment of modern life. Every day is now Sunday with new stay-at-home workplace policies, people are under a mix of self-imposed and government-imposed no-travel regimes and there is less public congregating—we are becoming as allergic to each other as we are to pollen. Even his holiness has now become the first Digi-Pope—if you want to see the Prince of the Apostles, the Supreme Pontiff speak live, you need to tune in and drop out… on your iPhone. (The Vatican, like all of Italy, is under lockdown.) If I ventured to write a sci-fi novel like this, you’d collectively roll your eyes.
Nowhere is unaffected. I went to the shrink and she declared a new policy necessitating that patients wash their hands before entering her dank, tiny, overheated office with no air circulation. Breathing in each other’s vaporous breath with squeaky clean hands will certainly go far to ward off any incipient viral infections. Instead of the knockdown Richard Prince “Nurse” painting I was just offered for $5 million, I rather need a full-time, live-in nurse.
On a certain level I am relishing the timeout from my brutal travel schedule—my Blum & Poe show in Tokyo has been indefinitely postponed, thanks for asking—because it’s a nice, if forced, slowdown and palate cleanser, affording more room for family and contemplation. Not to appear insensitive to those suffering or, worse, who have prematurely lost their lives. God knows what’s next.
There are musings that the mother of them all, Art Basel, will be bumped from June, for instance (not to mention Art Brussels and Cologne being on the chopping block in April). I’m beginning to melt into my office chair… and relishing it. Considering the prospect of the big Basel being postponed, Blum & Poe, with 35 full-time employees, was worried about the cash-flow blow if June ceases to be its reliable sales bonanza and “we all become like hibernating bears” waiting for the fall. It hasn’t happened yet, but I wouldn’t be all that surprised. Nowadays, literally anything and everything goes. Or doesn’t.
Fewer fairs is probably a good thing—it’s not like you’re missing much when the best works are pre-sold long before you get past the turnstiles on “VIP” mornings; it’s like going to a restaurant where they read a long list of specials and finish with, “Oh, and by the way, none of them are available.” As to this year’s Armory—an event for the art-world intrepid, symbolically situated next to the USS Intrepid, which participated in several campaigns in the Pacific Theatre of Operations—Lisa Spellman of 303 (herself as plucky as the warship) said all went swimmingly.
Spellman said of the Armory, in her own texted words: “Was super good vibes, I was shocked and the sales were good! Is it the last dance? Who knows. And then a cruise ship pulled up ha! The Norwegian Gem, there were paparazzi waiting as people disembarked, but I didn’t see anyone wearing masks. That’s all, the fair was really good and super upbeat.” Inside the pier, where I took the bar exam in 1987 (and passed the first time, you may know), there were many masked crusaders, seemingly as much for fashion as for health precautions—like the couple with matching graphic printed masks that they wore hanging below their faces. Ugh. And the guy with a gas mask color-coordinated to match his clothes. I can’t decide what’s worse, that or the idiots who stroll the aisles clad in sunglasses? (I am waging a one-man crusade against that latter offense these days.)
Besides corona paranoia, talk of Inigo Philbrick was thick in the fair’s air, as in the case of the dealer Michael Rosenfeld, who related to me that after recently buying (and paying for) a Ken Price sculpture from a Phillips private treaty sale, was informed they didn’t have title to convey the piece—the telltale hallmark of an Inigo deal—and refunded his money.
Donald Marron’s estate sales certainly aren’t suffering from the universal fear-mongering—art is the new gold, after all. Lisa Reuben, whose family was on record as one of the many owners of Rudolf Stingel’s portrait of Picasso that brought down Inigo’s house of Stingels after it sold at Christie’s in May (swiftly becoming the subject of litigation), just purchased Marron’s Gerhard Richter for $12 million; meanwhile, one of Marron’s Twomblys went for $31 million to Ken Griffin—not to be confused with kgriff38, one of Philbrick’s many Instagram aliases as he continues to communicate with me via DMs. Funny, I can barely sell a painting once, and he seemed to sell the same work four or five times. But letting go is hard to do; you can run and hide, but not when you are addicted to Insta!
Speaking of Inigo’s inability to stop messaging me, I happen to have an inability to keep anything to myself. Here below are a few screengrabs of my (yes, 100 percent real) dialogues with my infamous ex-friend via one of his fake accounts, where he suggests, among other things, that the onset of coronavirus and the crash of the markets may mean he has effectuated the perfect crime(s). Let’s see.
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