Kenny Schachter: I Hate New York • London, England

Kenny Schachter, “I Hate NY”, gallery view

Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 7pm, New Yorker, Kenny Schachter has been sitting in his temporary gallery, 107 Shoreditch High Street since the 17th of May waiting for you to see his exhibition, “I Hate New York”. It is the same method he has followed in New York and Mexico City for the last ten years. He only rents store fronts. For the first five years, he did not sell a thing. In truth, he only got one review. In his own naive way he was trying to change the landscape of the art world on his own terms. In many ways, he has succeeded in that aim.
He provided the necessary foothold into the art world for the likes of Janine Antoni, Andrea Zittel, and Christian Schuman. This success elevated him to the dizzy heights of the front page of the New York Times Magazine. Yet by his own admission he is still excluded from the art world for which he has developed a passion. Speaking to him, you sense the disappointment in this, but anger and his optimism to over come their ignorance takes hold of you as well.
At the start of another week on Shoreditch High Street, Tuesday, 6th of June, to be precise, Kenny’s own art world was temporarily shattered by two muggers. Kenny said, “they started asking questions about art. At first I was like these people look a bit dodgy. But then they were asking me questions (about Joao Onofre, “Untitled” video installation) and I started to explain the dialectic of the male/female etc.” Without warning, one of them got him in a head lock, issued death threats and (after a struggle) made him a hostage in his own gallery, by cheekily blocking the toilet door shut with a Flymo (part of Robert Chambers “White Prince” sculpture). After 10 minutes the muggers had gone, and with them approximately £10,000 worth of projection equipment and Kenny’s computer.
Soon after they had gone, he broke free from his cubicle prison. Friends gathered round, shared a beer and began to celebrate surviving such a horrific ordeal. When I arrived, just a few hours later, the gallery was still open for business like nothing had happened. Assured that he wanted to do the interview we sat down and began to release his post trauma adrenaline.
“People say there is a movement to the east (London). It’s all about money and creating this image. I just got robbed blind almost killed, and I still believe that the next person that walks in could be someone that never looked at art before,” he says.
Ever since he walked into his first gallery as a punter and was looked down upon, he has wanted to present an open challenge to the art world. It is a flawed approach that he admits is foolish and childish, but something has made him continue. “I believe in embracing anyone that comes in and takes the time to look. That’s my ideal audience. Sure I wanna make money. I wanna be successful and get a critical response to my work. But I’d rather fail on my terms than succeed on their terms. It (the art world) is just more of the same. Just the same money and elitism—which has nothing to do with art. It’s all about money, trendiness, and elitism. I reacted against that from the very beginning.”
He does not dismiss major art dealers on a personal level. It would be stupid to ignore that in London they have played an important role in creating the young British art (yBa) scene. He adds, “I just open my arms to London, because I honestly think there is more happening here, now, than anywhere in the world for Contemporary Art. But to beat your chest and say, ‘we’ve got the best artists!’. What kind of fucking stupidity is that! That’s just total PR.”
Here he begins to reveal what it is about the art world that he feels is wrong. “You’re not a human being in the art world unless you’re either a collector, a curator, or a dealer of some sort,” he says. He is right. There is no other industry in the world where the premise of communication is who not to communicate with, first. Curiously, he points to high fashion, but the point is clear. He says, “imagine if Alexander McQueen said, ‘you’re too ugly to wear my dress,’ adding, “I think the artists have the best intentions. I just think the art world is disgusting. It’s not just about how much money you have, but it’s like who are you?”
“That is why I am here. And when these people have robbed me, I keep my doors open! Because in my mind if I can seduce somebody from outside,” he pauses and completes his thought with, “some of my best audiences are just people walking by who see the store front.” The store front is the key to what Kenny offers. There is no buzzer to gain entry to this exhibition and today he has paid dearly, but that impact on the street is as important as the installations in the gallery. He explains, “Inherently it takes people in and that to me is what life is about—having someone come in who never looked at art, or never liked art, like me!” The most important thing to Kenny is to communicate his art shows to as many people as possible. In the haze of his survival and beer he reckons, “if you can have one sympathetic person—it’s worth nearly getting killed.”
In the cold light of the next day he was feeling nauseous by any sudden movement on the tube and the show does indeed go on, but he says, “I don’t think I could ever do it on my own again.” He hired security until 17th June when the eventful show ended.

Stuart Wright
London, England