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Kenny Schachter, the New York-born, London-based gallerist, collector, dealer and irritant to the art establishment on both sides of the Atlantic, has mounted an exhibition around an all-too-common — but rarely articulated — thought that strikes many a gallery and museumgoer.
“Have you ever stood in front of a painting and said to yourself: ‘My 9-year-old could have done that?’” asks Schachter, who has just opened “Friends & Family,” a show he curated with his two teenage sons at his Hoxton Square gallery, Rove. Art by Damien Hirst, George Condo, Zaha Hadid and Keith Tyson hangs alongside works by Schachter; his four sons, who range in age from 9 to 15; their school friends, and even the family’s car mechanic.
“It’s all seamlessly integrated, so you decide for yourself what’s good or not,” he says during a walk-through of the show, which runs until April 15 at Rove, which is catty corner to Jay Jopling’s first White Cube Gallery. Schachter pointed to a wall hung with Condo’s “Orgy Composition” (2004), American painter Joe Bradley’s untitled acrylic on canvas (2003) and 12-year-old Gabriel Schachter’s acrylic on paper (2010). The artists Jasper Joffe and Harry Pye have created Jasper & Harry’s 99p shop, which is filled with postcard-sized drawings, potato prints of Andy Warhol, painted egg cups and sculptures made from shuttlecocks. The works sell for 99 pence, or $1.55 at current exchange.
“This show is clearly not a money-making exercise,” Schachter deadpans.
“Friends & Family” plays to some of Schachter’s long-held beliefs — that great art doesn’t necessarily have to hang at the Guggenheim and cost a million-plus dollars, and that it’s a great way to relate to your kids.
“There is no difference between a fork, a spoon, a car, a painting. It’s about appreciating well-done things,” says Schachter, whose artist wife Ilona Rich’s work also features in the show. “I wanted ‘Friends & Family’ to come from somewhere other than profit. Art has become such a business — today it’s just another asset class, and it’s lost its sense of fun. People need to take it less seriously.”
For years he’s been arguing about art, fighting the establishment and getting thrown out of art fairs. When he was living in New York in the Nineties, he staged temporary art shows in vacant garages and storefronts that brought a high-octane, rougher edge and a less commercial agenda to the increasingly polished New York art scene. These days, when he isn’t arguing about art, he’s talking to his kids about it, making it or gazing at it in a museum or gallery.
“It’s the only way I can relate to a child. It is amazingly unifying for us as a family, and this show in particular gave the kids a voice,” says Schachter.
He points proudly to his 15-year-old son Adrian’s “Jar of Tears” 2012 — a glass jam jar sprinkled with bits of blue paper cut and shaped with a razor. He talks about how his 9-year-old son Sage chose to make a painting on a tissue — moved by its “ephemeral” quality. Schachter says mounting the show — which took about eight months — creating the catalogue and organizing the opening party kept the five of them fiercely focused. Guests at the opening included Jude Law and Sadie Frost, and their 15-year-old son Rafferty, and Bill Wyman and his three daughters, who all contributed artworks to the show. The Schachter children’s teachers and the parents also joined in.
Opening night last month was a success, although it attracted publicity for the wrong reasons. As the party was winding down, one of the female guests accidentally knocked into the plinth supporting three small bronze sculptures by Tracey Emin, sending them careering to the floor. Emin ended up pulling the work, “Prayers for Mother” (2011), from the show.
“I love Tracey and understand her — I think,” says Schachter. “But considering the enormous effort the kids put into this, it wasn’t right to remove her work, not really in the spirit of it all.”
The bad publicity died down, and he’s already thinking about doing a Part Two: “Opening night was the first kids’ party that I have been to where I wasn’t on edge — no one was puking all over the floor and everyone was socializing. It was a night we were all on the same plane.”