Asses of the world unite!

Kenny Schachter

Yesterday, an interesting and funny and startling conversation took place on Facebook between the informed and thoughtful curator Todd Levin and the self-described art hustler and polymath Kenny Schachter. It was a little like watching a car crash in real time, though no one really got hurt. More like a couple clown cars in a demolition derby. The conversation revolved around something Schachter wrote about Gallery Girls, a reality TV program built around the lives of young gallery workers. So this all started with a post from Schachter, who now does his thing in London. He’d gotten a scathing letter from the husband of a woman who had appeared in one episode of the show. His post:

Who is the poison pen in this instance, can someone please let me know, am i so terrible? Here is a scathing email I received, all because of this crap tv show I was asked to watch that was supposedly about the art market, not anyone’s academic achievements or accomplishments. Sorry.

I am a friend and subscriber of Marc Faber’s and so have read your art world pieces for a few years in his newsletter. I work in finance but have been around the art world myself since I was a child.

I have to say, I was extremely offended by your article on Gallery Girls in which you called my wife “a low-level art consultant buying the occasional inexpensive print for her supposedly high-caliber clients.” You clearly have done no research as my wife has a wonderful reputation and has never been called “low-level” by anyone. If you had even taken the time to go to her web site like a normal journalist, you would know that she was for many years a specialist in contemporary prints and multiples at both Sotheby’s and Christie’s and that she is also the author of John Baldessari’s print catalogue raissone. She is considered the leading consultant in the world for contemporary prints and represents the most important collectors in that field, including a foundation that has the largest such collection in the United States. . . .
Again Kenny I have read your stuff for quite some time but I have to say I am livid at your condescending and uninformed attack. You really should apologize. The art world is a small place and your poison pen was completely uncalled for.”

KS response: you have my sincerest apologies but my pieces are meant entirely in good faith and with jest. in any event, when you subject yourself to such exposure, you must understand the edits are meant to make people look in worst light. i was reviewing characters in a sitcom and meant NO offence. so i apologize.

KS response 2: again, i was being totally tongue and cheek and i apologize, i began my career in prints and works on paper and have published some myself so i fully understand. Please pass on my regrets, but that show is an affront, sorry.

KS response 3: one last thing not a hedge: i was reviewing a tv show, and no academic anything came off for anybody. i was asked to make a cursory think piece and in NO way a serious anything. apologies again.

and another thing, how could anyone involved with such an obviously low rent enterprise think that this was ever going to be a positive career boost, especially an academic?

Inarticulate, yes, but it was an apology, even though he couldn’t resist yet another dig there at the end. Then the comments began, with supporters and detractors choosing sides and putting in their two cents, or three, or four. I’ll edit out all the responses but those from Todd Levin. His mostly careful, considerate voice really stands out while most of the others simply pick a team, for or against Schachter.  Levin’s critical of Schachter but in a reasonable way: he wants Schachter to apologize and move on.

Todd Levin: I know Sharon very, very well. I worked with her at Sotheby’s
Sharon is the leading expert on Post-War/Contemporary prints in the entire world today. She also is a very serious academic, and did indeed do all research (and design!) on the entire John Baldessari print catalogue raisonné (one of the more beautiful raisonné of any type ever printed). I just saw her exquisite curated Ellsworth Kelly print retrospective at the Portland Museum of Art (it was traveling and I happened to be there for a curatorial meeting earlier this summer).

I think you were crappy in your remarks and attitude in this case. If you want to attack the show, then attack the show. If you want to rip the market, rip the market. I’ve no problem with that.

But describing Sharon personally as a “a low-level art consultant buying the occasional inexpensive print for her supposedly high-caliber clients” is WAAAY off base, and an incredibly dismissive and rude personal remark. Her clients are extremely high-caliber (in many cases, higher ‘caliber’ than yours) and she is neither ‘low-level,’ nor purchases ‘occasional inexpensive prints.’ In fact, for one of her collectors, she single handedly built from the ground up the largest and most comprehensive collection of Post-War/Contemporary master prints in the world in private hands – currently 5,000+ works and growing.

So, yeah – you deserved to get bitch smacked for that one. Sorry.

It’s a tongue lashing. But he’s presenting reasonable evidence for why Schachter was out of line. And the “bitch-slapped” is his way of keeping it light; eat a little crow Kenny and do better next time, that’s all. Then Schachter acts as if it was morally wrong to even appear on reality TV. (The jury’s out on that, though someone still needs to explain to me why it’s anything but a scourge.) He acts as if it was just a bit of righteous journalism to brand anyone on the show with a term that sounds a lot like “low life.”

Kenny Schachter: when you open the (flood) gates by participating in such public, dirty laundry drek, i am sorry, you are exposed. i was in no way critiquing her credentials. JUST HOW SHE CAME OFF IN THAT HORRID SHOW

Kenny Schachter: if anyone should have known better it was her

Todd Levin: ‎”…if anyone should have known better it was her…” What – that you’d be an ass?

Todd Levin: You are right – she SHOULD have known that!

Gosh. I’d forgotten what high school was like.

Kenny Schachter: yes if you go on a show with a cast of donkeys you smell like one too sorry

Kenny Schachter: todd maybe you can get a walk on role

Todd Levin: Kenny – you’re the one defining your career by deigning to write all about it. Talk about smelling like an ass!

Peter Nolan Smith:  todd must be fuming

Todd Levin to Peter: Fuming? No. Unhappy a friend was wrongly eviscerated in the press? Yes. And I defend my friends

 Kenny Schachter: i apologized, i apologized (to her). jeez. and todd, i was asked to watch a show and review it which i did and I STILL THINK FAIRLY AND ACCURATELY. why does no one defend eli klein? i write and think about that shit but certainly would not expose myself on screen. sorry no one asked you to review it oh wise one?

 Kenny Schachter: and not to be petty, but todd, again as your vitriol is so potent: “i was traveling and I happened to be there for a curatorial meeting earlier this summer.” we are so happy for the gratuitous expression of your curatorial prowess

Todd Levin: Kenny, don’t fret. I guess we can just judge you (according to your statements above) by the choices you make and the company you keep, right? Who is your Father-in-law? And what did your Mother-in-Law recently do? Let’s talk about THAT if you want to hurl around personal invectives at people. Let’s judge how smelly the donkeys are that you choose to surround yourself with in REAL life, OK, oh wise writer of such razor sharp critical prowess?

Somebody tell me more about Schachter’s family connections! Quick! Wait a minute, sorry. I went into a trance there for a second. You get sucked into this if you don’t watch yourself, as these two did themselves. This is where you close your eyes and be thankful you’re sitting on the sidelines.

Kenny Schachter: todd todd todd your petty words speak for themselves, just don’t visit here if you feel compelled to bring up peoples in-laws. you missed your opportunity to be the go to “curator” of choice for this show–i nominate you an honorary gallery girl.

Todd Levin: Oh Kenny- that’s rich (pun intended). So when you receive an email from a husband (properly) defending his wife due to some truly incorrect and rude comments that you asserted, that’s basically OK, and can be rationalized away by you! But when you do it, then I see there’s suddenly a double standard somehow involved. The words or commentary are then ‘petty,’ and there are suddenly ‘laws’ about what one can bring up and criticize out in public written discourse!

Kenny Schachter NO it was a show about ‘BIG BUSINESS OF ART” and they don’t show high profile evening sale or even contemporary art day sale but rather print sale. i was ONLY speaking reductively monetarily. christ.

OK, so Schachter meant that this woman, AT THE TIME in her role on the show, was operating at a low level of the art world, economically, in that under 15K region we low-level types inhabit. That’s not an unreasonable defense of . . . Hold on. Just a second here. I mean, the low-level types are donkeys? Asses? These are my peeps Kenny! Ease up! (Early in the conversation he referred to Gallery Girls as “a tv show supposedly focused on market where someone buys a terry winters print for under 15k.”) All of these people have got their panties in a twist over the way Schachter said this woman was working in a region of the art market that many of us would consider ourselves lucky to inhabit: to be selling work for as much as $15,000. Prints no less! These are the bottom feeders? But hey, the same must be true in Levin’s as well based on how offended he was by the imputation that his esteemed friend was called “low level” which really did sound pejorative, even if Schachter said it was a neutral description of the economic level of the market explored in Gallery Girls. That economic category would include nearly all of my artist friends and myself, most of them incredibly talented. Maybe Levin has the same view of the way art ought to be made, bought and sold, since he’s so quick to defend his friend against the “charge” of being “low level.” In other words, down here in this economic stratum where I and my artist friends all live and try to sell, we donkeys. No, sorry, we asses. Hm. Am I getting my panties in a twist over two words as well? Maybe it’s because the art world is so thoroughly infected with the worship of money and reputation. As is the culture at large.

Oh the humanity . . .

Todd Levin: Fair enough. Then attack the show and not the person.

Todd Levin: And the show is really crappy, I am in agreement on that (for what that’s worth).

You have to like Levin, olive branch in hand. He’s level-headed, except when Schachter pushes the buttons and provokes the invective. And he’s trying to bring this to a close here, bless his heart.

Kenny Schachter: and your mother wears army boots. are you happy, i stooped to your sophomoric level

Todd Levin: Kenny You were already on a sophomoric level when you wrote the review. Stooping not required.

Todd Levin: The show is the people yes, true. So describe the people accurately, and don’t lie, or make up facts.

Kenny Schachter: i beg to differ! sorry. you go on a show like that you are fodder. over and out! what a joy.

Todd Levin: Well, then, by the same token – you choose to write a regular public column about said show, and same applies. Fade to black. It’s been realz.

Kenny Schachter: the show looks good compared to this. wait till you read my next instalment !!!!!! batten down the hatches! Hahahahahah

I think I’ll pass on the next installment. Meanwhile, I’m not sure but I think I need to go forage for some fresh hay to prepare for dinner.

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