Room for one more?
Move over Jay Jopling. New York dealer Kenny Schachter
is comig to town. Now all he needs is a gallery...

Published: ArtReview Magazine, June 2004

The last time I considered a move to London was in spring 2000. I had curated an exhibition in Shoreditch entitled ‘I Hate New York’, in which a live internet simulcast laid bare the seamier side of the art commerce that I am guilty of engaging in, or trying to at any rate, and the day-to-day goings on of gallery life. Though I fully expected to get robbed at some point, with the three-chip Sony camera stationed in the window of the storefront screaming CASH, I imagined the theft would occur during the still of night on still grim Shoreditch High Street. Mid-afternoon on Tuesday 6 June two lanky, marginal characters entered the space. They lulled in the back while I tried to coax them upfront before the camera. After repeated motioning for me to join them I conceded and stood before a video projection and began to engage in admittedly inane repartee, which entailed frequent misuse of the word ‘dialectic’. But before I could utter ‘reification’, the taller of the two bent over and put me in a fierce headlock. He demanded to know where the basement was and, having recently heard about a robbery in a New York fast-food restaurant where the five employees that descended into the basement were shot pointblank, I did something I had often dreamt about but never had the guts to try – violent resistance. When that failed I resorted to a more familiar tactic consisting of grovelling and begging for my life. People who suffer near-death experiences often relate stories where lives pass before eyes, but don’t believe it. The only thing I could think of was that I was about to suffer imminent, violent death.

Having survived being imprisoned in a broom closet and robbed blind, what better place to move to permanently than three blocks away from the scene of the crime: Hoxton Square. Too bad they made off with the video equipment; there’s certainly a host of people that would have enjoyed watching me get my ass kicked.

19 – 23 September 2003, London

With regard to real estate brokers, a universality can be said to apply: they possess an unquenchable thirst to extract endless commissions from the people they allegedly represent. Perhaps brokers are better suited to be art dealers. The idea was to buy a building in London, develop it and sell off bits to end up with a self-sufficient – ie rent-free – exhibition space. I toured all points around the city and settled on 33-34 Hoxton Square (prescient timing, as White Cube is gearing up to re-enter the West End), a building fittingly named Lincoln House. But that was not enough. To this day, the agent is still trying to sell me the neighbouring building, an additional leasehold, and I can only imagine what’s next… a used car maybe.

13 – 18 December

The idea to move to London centered on my wife’s desire to be nearer to her family, my disillusionment with having a space in an isolated alleyway in New York, the increased global aspects of the art world, and a dread of the routine and tedium inherent in running the same gallery year in and year out (better known as a premature mid-life crisis). Four restless kids aged 1 to 7 cooped up in a hotel room while searching for a place to live in the day of $2 per £1, I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

4 – 7 January 2004

Walking in circles in the East End for hours trying to find a temporary gallery to launch projects while the Hoxton building is under construction. Complaining about the weather and alcohol consumption in the UK is akin to the countless jokes in Lost in Translation about the height and accent of Japanese people. I begin search for a suitable architect to help surmount difficulties of Hackney’s famously intransigent council. 6am on the way to the airport it occurs to me to contact Zaha Hadid’s studio as she has never built a new structure in the UK before, so I leave a message.

16 – 22 February

Dinner meeting with Zaha after she agreed to undertake a brief to design a mixed-use building in Hoxton. Forewarned about her imperiousness, but heartened by the salutations to all those who crossed her path during my brief encounter: ‘You’re a fucking disaster!’ With her equal opportunity impertinence, Zaha is a woman after my own heart.

More house-hunting, and meetings with accountants and lawyers, which threaten to bury me before I even open for business. Reached agreement to rent former Lux Gallery, at present Deluxe. I thought to name it No Luxe Gallery after the succession of enterprises in the space that weren’t able to pay the rent. Had a night out with an artist that involved a casino visit, a table-dancing bar, and ended with three empty bottles of booze and a near blackout after three years of abstinence. See above comment on British stereotypes and Sophia Coppola’s writing prowess.

11 – 15 March, Armory Show, New York

More than one person came up to me wondering when I had closed my gallery in New York (I hadn’t), how my move was (hadn’t moved yet) and a pot-pourri of other rumours and sundry stories about my life and career. So this is what I had to do to become relevant; why didn’t I think of moving five years ago? The best came from a local critic I have known for ages who declared it a travesty for New York that I was leaving and how sorely I would be missed. But for the past 15 years he missed me every week he sat down to his computer to write about art. Came to realisation and agreed with the pundits that I had better close shop in New York upon my move rather than be faced with the overwhelming financial burden and a life of 40 years on a plane.

After reading about Hans Haacke’s public Saatchi assault at the Tate in 1984 (in the leftist critique Super Collector), I thought it would make an auspicious debut, but a call to Hans revealed he begged to differ.

17 – 19 March, London

Met with Vito Acconci at Deluxe Gallery, which he was going to design for me. A real estate agent accompanied us so as to assure smooth relations due to the fact we were in effect forcibly unseating the existing tenant. As this occurred during regular gallery hours on a busy Saturday afternoon the whole enterprise took on the morose feeling of being at a funeral parlour, with Vito head to toe in black and armed with a tape measure, resembling a mortician readying the next coffin sale. Getting quite used to weather and learning to appreciate the fact that when hailstones drop from the sky in early spring at least it’s sunny doing so. A newspaper was kind enough to delete a flippant Jopling quote lifted from a previous interview in my more adolescent days, but failed to replace it with what I thought a rather pithy update: ‘White Cube recently opened an addition called Inside the Cube, but the problem is that no one is allowed inside. That is, people like me anyway.’ May as well get a head start on establishing good neighbourly relations. Received a call from my lawyer that the Lux building lease may not happen as the prior tenant is contesting eviction. Nothing like a little uncertainty to unnerve your mettle, but after the continued pounding of the dollar at the hand of the pound, I experienced a certain relief.

23 – 25 March, London

With the assistance of a headhunter, scheduled a marathon nine interviews in a single day in my hotel lobby every hour on the hour. To avoid having to splurge for coffees (or should I say teas) for each candidate on my account, these were conducted in a hallway behind the lobby – very cozy and practical. Read the first resume: ‘I have recently become a keen gardener and particularly enjoy growing vegetables and perennial flowers such as delphiniums.’ Yes, an enthusiastic sense for agriculture, just what I had been searching for; the tell-tale indicator of talent in the art world. Next. In pranced a woman in an Hermes scarf, haughtily dressed, from Madrid. She was the only person who neglected to make the cursory effort of Googling me prior to meeting. The one case where I caved and met her in the bar area for coffee, she promptly ordered something to drink and eat, then sniffed: ‘I hope you do something I like, because if not, I couldn’t be bothered and certainly don’t need the job.’ Could I have found the perfect applicant, a motivated go-getter, to tackle the task at hand? It went from bad to worse. One guy said that we could actually use his mailing list from his past gallery enterprise, which he now had the right to do. When I expressed my confusion about this issue, he told me he had purchased it back from the bankruptcy estate. This would have been somewhat easier to swallow, save for the fact that when I asked him if he was on coke due to his excessive sniffling and nose-wiping on his sleeve, he replied: ‘I wish.’ Another thing I look for in a candidate besides farming ability – a healthy appetite for drugs. When the pickings seemed to get better, I got the feeling that I was in fact helping galleries like Gagosian keep their employees: after speaking to me, people appeared to discover how much they really liked their jobs but hadn’t realized it until they came face to face with the alternative.

11 – 14 April

Visiting schools with my kids, who always perform on cue when meeting the headmaster by violently fighting and calling each other fucking assholes at the top of their lungs, is always a treat. Clad in little army fatigues (how appropriate for children from Bushland), my six year old blurted when spying the ‘oh so charming’ red uniforms in one school: ‘red isn’t my colour.’ Get a call from the lawyer that the Lux building lease will in all probability go through, forcing me to go forward with what I had been blabbing about all along: a June opening. When I spoke to the sculptor I chose to first exhibit at the new gallery to inform her of the impending opening – a decision based on her command of space and the impact such an all-over installation would make for my inauguration – she said she was now thinking about paintings. Why do sculptors want to be painters and painters want to make objects?

16 – 17 April , Toulouse, France

Travelled to Toulouse to meet with agnès b., arranged by her UK managing director on the event of an exhibition of her art collection. I had pitched them as a possible end user for the Hoxton development, to hedge myself should I decide to lease out a portion of the finished (or unfinished space). Sometimes in life things go amazingly well, where everything for some unknown reason goes your way and things fall right into place. Well, this trip was the opposite from the get-go. I had purchased a mini disc recorder to launch my radio show as the UK correspondent for PS1’s upstart station, figuring I would interview Agnès on her London-based art activities, then left at home the cool-looking new equipment that I probably never would have figured how to use. Also forgot the charger for my laptop, so couldn’t write or email. Waited an hour at the museum while Agnès finished some press, after which I realized she had no idea whatsoever who I was or what our ‘meeting’ was about. Skipped the parties, got a massage, drank a lot of mini-bar beer and ran back to New York on the next available flight. That was an expensive way to meet someone I used to steal money to buy clothes from.


Three planning commission meetings have thus far been cancelled, all after my purchase of non-refundable plane tickets. The lease on the Lux space has been in a tug-of-war between attorneys – where one day I am moving forward with possession, the next I am looking at Charlotte Road as yet another alternative, temporary, temporary gallery location. Seems like a pattern: whenever I have found a suitable living or working space, it has been pulled off the market or the price jacked up between my visit and expression of interest. Is this some UK thing or are the real estate god’s frowning upon me? One way or another the intrepid curator will go forward. Hooligans haven’t stopped me at knifepoint, real estate agents haven’t stopped me with dubious business practices (although they are more threatening than knife-wielding thugs), and the planning commission seems to ensure that I spend as much time in the UK prior to my move as possible. One way or another I will open in June in Hoxton Square or in the neighbourhood, come rain or come… rain. In the end, the best part of moving is that all those years of tossing out notices to serve on jury duty proved judicious – I finally came up with an foolproof alibi.



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