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. Episode four had him mad as hell, and all but pleading for mercy, perhaps in an effort to convince us not to torture him with further episodes. If this is the case, he will find that such methods are ineffective. Stay tuned for (we hope) 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’m Set Free” is the name of the fifth episode of Gallery Girls (GG), and that’s exactly what I was left feeling after watching. Free at last! I have cathartically let go of the hate, cleansed myself of all traces of hostility. I’ve gone so far as to learn all of the girls’ names (even at this late stage, I am proud of the achievement). There’s Liz, Maggie, Kerri, Chantal, Angela, Claudia and Amy. Ah, Amy, boozy Amy, I know I shouldn’t have favorites but who can begrudge me for losing the battle to resist? Throughout this broadcast, I didn’t once drift, or resort to watching the DVD clock count down by the second. I swear.
The two girls (okay, I’m not perfect, I forgot which) who have a gallery/jewelry/clothing store (I can’t recall the name, I’m only human) decide to go street and launch a raw, renegade talent to shake things up and lift moribund sales. They enter a studio and are greeted by the bold pronouncement of the artist: “I am the Sucklord.” The girls’ response: “We heard a lot about you.” They had? I know what you are all thinking, doubting Thomases, that the Sucklord is a challenged individual with very modest, if any, intelligence; a real moron, and how truly bad and stupid he and his “art” must surely be. I must say it crossed my mind, too. Wait—I need to bite my tongue harder. Let’s not pre-judge.
How can I put it nicely? The Sucklord: wow, what a fitting moniker. I couldn’t have come up with a more apt characterization of the man. He makes works with titles like Suckadelic and Suckpacks; he makes Ass Wipe-brand toilet paper. I stand in awe, a transformed man; maybe we should all eat crow and suck it up to the Sucklord. Says the ‘Lord himself, “I can make a spectacle and big hype. I can make art turning Occupy Wall Street bankers into Transformers”—we’ll let that oxymoron pass—“and create an exclusive roll of toilet paper for your gallery. We can do custom tampons, too. We can occupy your asshole.” The hallowed words of Bob Dylan ring hollow by comparison.
How did the GGs sum up their Sucklord experience? In their own inimitable, cute-as-buttons way: “He’s great.” “He’s terrible.” Oh girls, he’s all that and more! “Then all of a sudden things, like, got, like, completely out of control. There was a riot of geeks and crazy people with masks.” It was all so cutting edge and real-life, proving that anything could and did happen—the spontaneity was fabulously fresh! The Sucklord raised his glass: “Here is a toast to fucking not sucking and making money.” That is a sentiment I’d happily clink my glass to! And he sold the most since the inception of the “gallery,” so, there you go, he must be good. (Doesn’t that say it all about art, the market and (OWS Transformer) “collectors”? Sorry, I digress…)
Amy has a dinner party where for some reason a few of the GG rats call in sick within seconds of each other. There are always a few bad seeds. But intrepid Amy is undeterred and what starts as “the worst party ever” quickly becomes a smash. You see, girls? Some old stick-to-itiveness can go a long way. Red wine, white wine, margaritas, yeah Amy, you are a woman after my own heart. If only I could have been there to help celebrate with you.
“Amy’s dad is paying for an apartment with extravagant upholstered things on the walls. Like an old person’s house, but then again it does belong to her parents.” Do I detect some jealousy from a fellow griping girl? Why not acknowledge what a generous man Amy’s dad must be, with the foresight to instill in the young woman the hunger to be all she can be—the best intern interning. “No girl her age should be living like this, her apartment is large, expensive and gaudy, just like Amy.” Some of you lot should be called the Sour Grapes Gallery Girls.
The art consultant/mentor to the girls, I’ve learned after assiduous research, was responsible for the Printed Matter catalogue raisonné of John Baldessari. I’ve also come to understand she has been, all along, a truly mothering, nurturing force. When Amy shows up late, hung over, for an important meeting the print dealer had arranged on her behalf, the dealer stalls and cajoles her client: “My intern is late I apologize so maybe we can just talk for a while, I am sorry.” I exclaim, what a sport! What more flexible and supportive a boss could you wish for? Though she followed with a slight admonition: “It would really mean a lot to me if you could be on time, it sends the wrong message, and makes a bad impression for me and for you.” Is there a more Gandhi-esque posture of patience and understanding? When the esteemed print dealer, revered in academic circles and elsewhere, wears a fantastical feather (duster) getup, which may make the others look like the little offspring of Big Bird, I only grow to admire her courageousness all the more.
Next up in this laugh-a-minute romp through art and the art world was the thrill and anticipation of the photo exhibit of the 3x-an-episode nude Angela: “I am shooting this event of me, for me. I want to be an ‘It Girl’ and some people might call me a fame whore, but I have some depth to me.” All I can say is, what an enlightened and heightened level of realization. It resonates with Buddhist self-awareness. “My biggest fear is my friends will laugh at my show.” Those ever so saccharine-sweet Gallery Girls? They’d never unduly dismiss you—fear not, photogenic photographer. They will embrace you with open arms, how could they not? To do otherwise would be positively unladylike and ill-mannered.
Angela is no lightweight when it comes to insightfully peering into the core meaning of her own works (not to say her navel): “My photos are all, like, all pop color and moroseness.” Ever the contrarian, Angela is a spouting well of dialectic vs. tautological associations. There is no area of the process immune to her probing investigations, even the Marxist implications of the politics of the underlying commercial transactions: “I didn’t realize you made editions of prints, I didn’t even notice.” Answers Kerri, another maven in the world of prints: “I didn’t know either, that’s, like, my whole internship.” You see, skeptics? You can pick up incredibly useful, pragmatic insights as a gallery girl—for instance, that prints come in editions—so shame on you all.
Then it’s another Angela undie shot, even as she states that she is really self conscious. Ah, the sublime beauty of the blurred-out boob—I feel so privileged to be behind the scenes, like a true art world insider. In the end there were no sales, but hey, don’t get down on yourself, Vincent van G. didn’t sell much either. Think big! But Angela was already onto other things she may pursue instead of art. That was fast. Well, let’s consider her a restless polymath, rather than someone with the attention span of a flea that’s been sprayed with a lethal dose of Raid.
This show gave me goosebumps all over. It sent tingles up and down my spine, it brought unmitigated joy. How wrong I could have been about it all, but for the rose tinted glasses I slipped on this week. It’s a new day and I left my house whistling:
Happy days are here again!
The skies above are clear again,
So let’s sing a song of cheer again
Gallery girls are here again.
Altogether, shout it now!
There’s no one
Who can doubt them now.
Let’s tell the world about them, Wow!
Gallery girls are here to stay.
Your cares and troubles will go away
When you compare your life to this show
There’s not much lower you can go
Happy days are here again!