By Sharon Edelson
NEW YORK — At the opening of his
conTEMPorary Gallery last year — just before
some movable shelving fell on the head of artist Laura
Emmerick and after electro-punk band A.R.E. Weapons
began performing on the second floor — Kenny
Schachter stated the obvious: “I thrive on chaos.”
Admittedly, Schachter, an independent
curator, self-taught artist and formerly itinerant
dealer, takes on too many projects and pushes deadlines
too close to the wire.
And if experience is a guide, Schachter
is again setting himself up for a stressful time.
Beginning this spring, he’s moving conTEMPorary
from Charles Lane to a larger space on Hudson and
Dominick Streets here, opening a venue for art on
London’s Hoxton Square near Jay Jopling’s
prestigious contemporary art gallery White Cube, and
relocating his family.
“My wife is pressuring me to move to London.
She wants to be closer to her father, in Europe,”
Schachter said, referring to Ilona Rich, the daughter
of New York-based Denise Rich and her ex-husband,
pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich.
Ilona, an artist and fashion designer, has been working
on a new collection and hopes to open a boutique in
London, Schachter said.
It often seems as if Schachter does
his best work under duress. In the Nineties, he staged
temporary art shows in vacant garages and storefronts
that brought a rougher edge and a less commercial
agenda to the increasingly polished New York art scene.
Cecily Brown, Janine Antoni and Lisa Ruyter were among
the stars to emerge from the high-octane confusion
of those exhibitions.
Schachter, who has always railed against
the established gallery system, with its sterile white
spaces and exclusionary practices, never thought he’d
open a gallery of his own. But behind the hyperbole,
he’s as business-savvy as gallerists Jeffrey
Deitch and Gavin Brown.
Besides, conTEMPorary and the recently
opened Rove gallery on Perry Street are anything but
simple white boxes. Designed by the notorious Seventies
performance artist-turned-architect Vito Acconci,
there are no tall reception desks to separate visitors
from intimidating gallery employees.
Until Schachter came along, Acconci’s
designs were largely theoretical, such as a Disney-esque
plan for a park on the C.W. Post campus where a building
shaped like a whale morphs into a bird. Acconci, who
shares his patron’s disdain for the art world’s
affectations, will design the Hoxton Square and Hudson
Street spaces as well as a second gallery and bar
in London for Schachter.
“I got Vito the commission for
a United Bamboo store in Tokyo and a furniture installation
in a development Jane Holzer did in Los Angeles,”
Schachter said. “I would say I’m his main
architectural proponent. Me, and Austria, where they
named a pastry after him.”
Although Schachter has become more commercially
oriented, he recently published a book, “Jasper
Who?” about contemporary art’s relevance
to the average person. After 100 man-in-the-street
interviews, he concluded that art plays a role in
everyday life, but people are alienated by the feigned
idea that art can only be understood by the few and
afforded by even fewer.
“An integral part of my program
is to work outside the confines of the art world,”
he said. “I like to cross-pollinate art with
architects, fashion designers, dance groups and musicians.”
For example, conTEMPorary’s inaugural
exhibition included works by Imitation of Christ’s
Tara Subkoff and British photographer Jessica Craig-Martin,
AsFour, Acconci and the fashion collective United
More recently, “The Club in the
Shadows” re-created Danceteria with a performance
by Kim Gordon, the female bass player for Sonic Youth.
“Art Band: A Night of Music and Art at Capitale,”
featured young artists and musicians.
“When I did the show at the Capitale,
1,000 people showed up,” Schachter recalled.
“The kids were there in droves.” But Schachter
wants to expose art to an ever greater audience. “I
need a more public space,” he said. “I
hope I’ll finally be able to do that in London.”