Seeking a professional opinion on the Bravo reality series Gallery Girls, we asked the London-based art dealer, curator and writer Kenny Schachter to weigh in. After his recap of the first two episodes, we weren’t entirely certain he would stay in the game. But today we received his thoughts on episode three. Stay tuned (we hope) for further musings on the program from Mr. Schachter, whose writing has appeared in books on architect Zaha Hadid, and artists Vito Acconci and Paul Thek, and who is a contributor to the British edition of GQ and Swiss money manager Marc Faber’s Gloom Boom & Doom Report.
I set out this week to suspend disbelief (yes, a paradoxical prospect given that we are dealing with a reality show) close my eyes and hold my nose, take a giant leap of faith and try my very best to find something redeeming in the third installment of Gallery Girls (here, GG). But based on the evidence of this program, it seems that a serviceably watchable, remotely entertaining television show about art is just too good to be true, and despite the sheer focus and determination with which I attempted to seek out the merit in this enterprise—and, reader, I tried, I really tried—my efforts were in vain.
OK, OK, maybe I could have struggled more, as I drifted in and out of a series of daydreams between the pre-show recap of last week’s episode and the closing credits. More to the point: what unfolds below is not going to make me any new friends.
It started before the latest DVD even arrived on my doorstep. In response to my first recap, I received an unsolicited e-mail from a reader of Marc Faber’s Gloom Boom & Doom Report, an economics journal to which I contribute an art and commerce column, chewing me out for criticizing—the word used was “demeaning”—his wife, an esteemed scholar of contemporary prints. I exaggerate not. The word livid might also have been bandied about, among other, less flattering characterizations. Sure, I was guilty as charged, but am I to blame for not Googling a casual character in a reality show? I called it as I saw it. This is not an ongoing research project supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. (As an aside, it’s funny how chivalry lives on with the over-eager, defensive husband—when I go out with my wife we usually spar in front of guests like an ancient Roman sporting event.) I don’t think the devoted spouse will be too thrilled with how his wife comes across below. I truly apologize, herein and hereafter, to any and all offended parties.
And with that, let’s get started. There is a certain Los Angeles socialite-personality known as the Greasy Bear, who is famous for saying something or other about Lindsay Lohan’s crotch being on fire—and then there is the art world equivalent, in this very program, but I don’t want to mention his name (again) for fear of retribution from his wife. (In fact I am more than surprised I haven’t heard from his lawyer already. But I am emboldened by Richard Prince’s romp through copyright law and the hubris by which he constantly exploits the (pay as you go) legal system in the name of furthering his own career.) To return to the GG guy who shall remain unnamed, firstly, this guy says “Ok” more than all seven of the titular gallery girls combined say the word “like,” and I don’t need to remind you that is a lot. He is so juvenile and subjugating that he makes one of the girls count pebbles in a planter. (One wonders, is spending time this productively how Larry Gagosian became the world’s most financially successful art dealer?) Let’s just say it starts (and ends) with the super-slicked-back hair.
Since I don’t have enough column space to properly rip through this rotting corpse, I mean fabulous TV show, here’s a mash-up of some of the crap content I managed to absorb: Paintings are, in the same breath, described as smart, satirical, genius, mind-boggling and un-understandable; a Euro-trash mother and trash-trash daughter gorge on lobster in a manner that would make Henry VIII blush; in the context of describing her suffering for fashion, a typically low-rent cast member calls her homosexual friends “my gays”; then it’s back to the print dealer whose husband excoriated me, who sends two complete nudniks off on their own to an art fair to pick out artworks for a hypothetical client. As Mr. T put it, “Pity the fool.” That’s like entrusting a kid who’s just consumed a case of sleeping syrup to operate a piece of heavy machinery. Or one of my own kids sober.
Speaking of the rich girl, who has relentlessly reminded us she’s rich from the get-go, she ever-so-cleverly describes her ever-so-quaint, idyllic childhood playing hide and seek with sculptures by Noguchi and Miro: “I mean, like, who gets to, like, do that?” She elaborates on her plight: “I am a good looking, smart girl that comes from a family of money, so, um, like, other people hate on you.” Well put! Then comes one of the highlights of the show so far, when she tops all of this off with a rant at her classmates (she’s trying to determine who inadvertently stepped on her piece-of-shit artwork) that includes the phrase “All you quiet little Asian people.” Aren’t there network censors for those moments when a person lacks the capacity to, like, think? In fact, she doesn’t need to be suppressed so much as put under conservatorship. The father of this train wreck gives new meaning to the definition of squirm. Which once again begs the question, asked in my previous column but worth repeating, as to why on earth he, an established member of the art world with an esteemed private museum, would agree to participate? Maybe the lure of stardom is just too magnetizing.
At this point things get a bit blurry. Throughout the show, I, for the life of me, couldn’t stop my mind from wandering. I’d start multitasking and ultimately find myself doing something altogether different from what I set out to do, with no recollection whatsoever that I had been watching a “program.” (Even as I type, I tremble with trepidation that coming weeks will bring yet more DVDs. I don’t want to have a poison pen, I don’t want to be a hater—please don’t make me watch again. It’s a play (tragedy) on a Barbara Kruger: Protect Me From What I (Don’t) Want.)
But I perked up when, out of the blue, there appeared on the sceen Jane Holzer, a k a Warhol’s “Baby Jane,” whom I count as a dear friend. As should by now be obvious, I have a hard time with pretense. But what are my options? Should I plead the Fifth and avoid hoof-in-mouth disease? At the very least, in what follows I will try to behave. Jane falls into the same trap as Marty Margulies, one that can only be described as: I Want to Be a Celebrity, Keep Me in Here. Asked to formulate a response to an artist she exclaims “Hah!” and goes on to state that in college she majored in boys rather than art history. Then, just when you thought that greasy gallerist, the aforementioned guy, would venture out of character and go humble in the presence of sweet Baby Jane, who’s been there and done it all (and owns most of it in the process), and you get—boom!—this: When Jane pays him a cursory thanks for teaching her about the Chinese artists on view, he responds, “There are not too many people better qualified in the world to do so.”
When I inserted the GG disc into my laptop this time around, it was generically labeled: LOGICAL VOLUME IDENTIFIER, and that, in effect, is what I set out to do. I failed miserably. A possible translation of those words: Spot the quantity of commonsense. Granted this is an artless art show, but the sad truth of the matter is that my quest to find sense in it was a journey of absolute futility. In the midst of writing, something unthinkable happened, something that we’ve all experienced: I inadvertently deleted part of my piece. I found I couldn’t contend with the horror that, in order to recreate it, gathering quotes and my thoughts, I’d have to watch a portion over of the show again. Thoughts, it occurs to me, may be too strong a word. It hurts my head to contemplate; can someone please explain why TV has to be like this? As an audience, is this the best we can aspire to? Surely we are all complicit—it’s a harrowing indictment that there is even demand. As I was taking a walk with my 16 year old, he asked me to recount the broadcast, so I considered the question for a moment, and respectfully declined. I couldn’t even re-watch the few relevant minutes from which my notes were accidentally deleted—I certainly couldn’t revisit the whole.