God knows why Kenny Schachter insists on curating the wrong shows in the wrong places. Although his ‘collaborations’ with Christie’s and Pace disclose both institutional insecurity and lack of scholarship (from both parts), his curating efforts ironically become the epitome of that ‘capitalist realism’ that Polke (much more than Richter) wanted to thematise. In his desperation for ‘doing’, Schachter end up being swallowed by the very art he is supposed to organise. I think his work is a wonderful example of how curators can naturalise those topics that artists dedicated a life at highlighting as ‘un-natural’. In other words, why is Kenny Schachter messing up with the works of Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter and what are the risks of his involvement?
The eventual reader of Kenny Schachter’s posts in Facebook usually finds himself or herself exposed to a rather solipsistic body of ‘knowledge’ which is structured by a mix of rumours, gossip and ‘market trends’. His approach to art presents itself as ‘connoisseurial’ and disguises the lack of scholarship through an assortment of chronological facts (this was the case of his Thek show at Pace) or the eventual associations between artists which seem to be relevant as such.I argue here that this is particularly problematic in the case of Polke and Richter.
In an article titled ‘Polke Fights from Under Richter’s Shadow, Schachter Sheds the Light at Christie’s’, it is said that ‘while New York is basking in MoMA’s retrospective of Sigmar Polke, Christie’s in London will be hosting an exhibition of Polke’s work mixed with his peer and rival, Gerhard Richter, that has been organized by Kenny Schachter and Christie’s Darren Leach. About half of the works in the Christie’s show will be for sale but the point of the event is to bring together two artists who have had differing market fates but similar critical stature’. In one sentence, we are invited to see Polke and Richter as having something in common that it is not necessarily linked to the market and this is not just an assertion but ‘a historical injustice’ that should be amended by ‘those who care about art’.
Colin Gleadell adds: ‘One reason for the difference in market performance is the difference in styles. Richter is generally easier to read, and for the market to get to grips with and consume. Although he embraces many styles, they do break down easily – blurred photo-realist subjects and luxuriant abstracts that have become trophy paintings for the world’s super-rich. Polke’s styles are more difficult to categorise, as they explore the mysteries of paint itself and hat happens when it is mixed alchemically with other substances’. So, according to Gleadell, from the point of view of the market, Richter’s paintings are more valuable (more expensive) because of their ‘clarity’ and ‘iconicity’ while Polke’s ‘ambiguity’ is more difficult to categorise. This entails that the easier it is to categorise a painter, the easier it is to sell his work. The problem with this is that both artists reject (Pop Art) iconicity.
Schachter’s efforts are addressed at turning the MOMA and Tate’s retrospective into some kind of profit but the problem is that he presents himself as ‘critically fit’ and ‘scholarly enabled’. The Art Monitor Market makes this very clear when stating: ‘Everyone who understands Polke believes that the gap between the two artists’ prices will narrow. The Michael Werner Gallery, which worked with Polke during his lifetime, is presenting an exhibition in New York of 100 works on paper from the Sixties, priced from $30,000 to $250,000. The gallery director, Gordon Veneklasen, says that this adjustment has already begun. “His influence on younger artists is palpable, and a catalogue raisonné is now being produced, helping collectors to rationalise his market. On the private market, his paintings have sold for as much as $12 million,” says Veneklasen’
In that article (posted by him in his own Facebook wall), Schachter is presented as anxious to participate in this reassessment of Polke’s ‘worth’ due to the fact that for him ‘this is a second stab at a show that he proposed initially to Sotheby’s last year, but which fell through. Prices will range from £3,000 for some of the early collaborative prints made by Polke and Richter in the Sixties, to £8 million for a painting by Richter. Holding the middle ground are works on paper by Polke that are priced from £150,000’.
From the point point of view of this blog, I find it ironic that these efforts involve two artists that thematised capitalism as an instrument of naturalisation of ‘unnatural’ processes. In fact, what makes Polke and Ricther ‘critically’ linked is the fact that they both endorsed the idea of Capitalist realism when used in the title of the 1963 art exhibition in Düsseldorf, Demonstration for Capitalist Realism, which featured the work of Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Wolf Vostell and Konrad Lueg.The exhibition’s participants focused upon depictions of Germany’s growing consumer culture and media-saturated society with strategies, in part, influenced by those of their American Pop counterparts. They were inspired primarily by the iconography depicted in newspapers and magazines as instrumental deformities of a reality of a different kind.
As a philosophical concept capitalist realism is indebted to an Althusserian conception of ideology. Fisher proposes that within a capitalist framework there is no space to conceive of alternative forms of social structures. He proposes that the 2008 financial crisis compounded this position; rather than seeking alternates to the existing model we look for modifications within the system. The crash confirmed within the populace the necessity of capitalism rather than shake it loose from its foundations. It is this comedic need of capitalism that ‘first presents as tragedy and then as farse. Fisher says: ”Capitalist realism as I understand it cannot be confined to art or to the quasi-propagandistic way in which advertising functions. It is more like a pervasive atmosphere, conditioning not only the production of culture but also the regulation of work and education, and acting as a kind of invisible barrier constraining thought and action.”
The genesis of the term “Capitalist realism” is key to understand how Kenny Schachter’s and Christie’s ‘needs’ end up pushing Polke and Ricther together and closer to Pop Art while, in fact, that happens only if their work from the early 60s is understood as an attempt to differentiate their figurative work from the iconicity that fuels Pop Art in America. In other words, it is the lack of clarity (and anti-iconicity) that Schachter sees as responsible for Polke’s ‘lousy’ market performance the very reason why his work can be linked to Richter’s. I have the impression that Kenny Schacther is one of those socialites that does not know what he wants but he wants it now. It is the gluttony in his approach to art that might make us think of him as…Kenny Schacther, the child curator!