Kenny

Are NFTs a Shrinking Market or the Next Amazon? Kenny Schachter Wages War With Crypto-Cynics and One Irksome NFT Terrorist


Joshua Decter is a “writer, curator, theorist, educator, and editor” who really, really loathes NFTs, so much so he has been engaged in a months-long, cross-platform attack against me on everything from Twitter to Instagram, culminating in his threat last week to have his beef with me spill over onto the streets of New York. (He’s certainly not the first—or last presumably—to threaten to beat me up.) Decter is adamant that NFTs are divorced from art and exist as nothing more than a debased cryptocurrency scam. I am sorry to persist in pushing back on this, but his wholesale dismissal is entirely misplaced. He also happens to be the author of a 2013 book entitled Art Is a Problem. I’d suggest the real problem is more likely his intemperate machismo and childish, obstinate shortsightedness.

Let’s make something abundantly clear, once and (one hopes) for all: People think of NFTs as a thinly veiled currency (at best), which couldn’t be further from the truth. That became all too clear with the rapid rise of Ethereum, which all but violently thwarted NFT sales as the art couldn’t compete with the underlying crypto it’s traded in. To illustrate, the closing price of ETH on March 11th, the day of Beeple’s Christie’s sale was $1,826; since then, on May 11, ETH hit a high of $4,178. (As I write its fluctuating around $3,800.) If Vignesh Sundaresan (aka Metakovan) kept his hand off his keyboard during the frenzied Beeple bidding war, the 37,787 ETH he purchased it with—the equivalent of $69 million then—would have reached a high of $157,876,232 less than two months after his prescient (eye roll) acquisition! Regardless of ETHs trajectory, I’d hazard a guess that the present actual value of Beeple’s best is less than $10 million.

Video killed the radio star and NFTs killed the NFT star—by fueling ETH inflation. NiftyGateway, the highest-profile NFT platform, is cancelling hundreds of drops due to the fact that the torrent of content creation isn’t commensurate with today’s shrinking marketplace. (Incidentally, I have my do-or-die third NiftyGateway release coinciding with publication of this article. Fingers crossed.)

 

“The Hoarder” is included in Kenny Schachter’s NiftyGateway drop.

Larva Labs, programmers of 10,000 unique CryptoPunks (2017), a group of which fetched $17 million at Christie’s last week, rushed to market with their latest project, 20,000 Meebits, on the back of the Punks’ auction hype. Some complained they were aping “Bored Apes” by the Bored Ape Yacht Club (another collection of 10,000 “unique” NFTs). Are you following? The salient point is that “Meebits” are trading well below their launch price due to the overall constricting of NFT valuations, though creators Matt Hall and John Watkinson did bank another $75 million after their “Punks” auction. It’s revenge of the nerds—on amphetamines.

 

This Meebits video is also included in Kenny Schachter’s Nifty drop.

If you’ve ever seen Midnight Publishing Group News’s ace reporter Nate Freeman about town at a local watering hole, he resembles a throwback to a 1950s-era newshound, often clad in a brown tweed blazer with a notepad in one hand and martini in the other. But when it comes to NFTs, his mindset is as antediluvian as his attire. His Wet Paint column is nothing short of a relentless broadside against digital art and the cryptocurrency that underpins it. He recently complained that the Christie’s CryptoPunks buyer was host of a consortium of investors with a portfolio of Punks. Actually, that’s not altogether different from the Mugrabi clan and their passel of Basquiats, Warhols, Condos, et al.—who also happened to underbid on Urs Fischer’s recent NFT drop on Loïc Gouzer’s Fair Warning auction app. At least they have the foresight to adapt to a changing technologically enabled world, unlike my esteemed Midnight Publishing Group colleague.

Similarly, Tim Schneider, of Midnight Publishing Group News Pro’s The Gray Market recently authored a column headed: “Why NFTs Aren’t the Solution to Museums’ Deaccessioning Dilemmas or Any Other Big Problems, Either.” That was before the storied Uffizi Gallery in Florence sold an NFT of the Michelangelo painting “Doni Tondo” (1505-06) for €140,000 ($170,000). Not to gloat, but… I have been saying for ages (most recently in Austria’s Der Standard newspaper), that museums should sell NFTs alongside posters and postcards instead of deaccessioning art. Max Hollein, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whom I count as a friend (and who I hope won’t be offended), said in an interview that NFT deals are primarily propaganda for speculating in cryptocurrencies. He might reconsider before commencing a deaccessioning campaign of his own.

When it comes to NFTs, as Katharina Rustler of <em>Der Standard</em> interpreted it, “Grab chance by the eggs!" Courtesy of Kenny Schachter.

When it comes to NFTs, as Katharina Rustler of Der Standard interpreted it, “Grab chance by the eggs!” Courtesy of Kenny Schachter.

It’s not just Old Masters teaching the new by taking a lead in combating the staggering loss of revenues that COVID has wrought on art institutions, but commercial stalwarts like Art Basel and even eBay are getting in on the NFT game. Bitsky (Banksy’s Russian cousin?) is yet another startup that just raised $19 million from the likes of Serena Williams and Jay-Z, led by Marc Andreessen (who bears a striking resemblance to a Conehead of “Saturday Night Live” fame) of Andreessen Horowitz, a $16.6 billion tech fund that has cemented a chokehold on the NFT market, indicating a fervently bullish long-term view. (They’ve also been throwing gasoline on the NFT speculation fire through Clubhouse, the live convo app they’re backing that seems to host a different NFT hypefest every 10 minutes.) Bitski, for its part, is meant to employ a rudimentary consumer interface, creating ease for the crafting of NFTs payable by credit card and sidestepping the fear and hesitancy of crypto-cynics.

German art royalty: Johann Koenig (who’s got a few new ideas up his sleeve when it comes to role of art dealer) and Daniel Hug, director of Art Cologne, which is coming up in November’s return to normalcy. Courtesy of Kenny Schachter.

German art royalty: Johann Koenig (who’s got a few new ideas up his sleeve when it comes to role of art dealer) and Daniel Hug, director of Art Cologne, which is coming up in November’s return to normalcy. Courtesy of Kenny Schachter.

Bafflingly, it is the historically staid auction houses, instead of galleries, that have been at the forefront of acclimating to the changing landscape of the art world vis-à-vis technological innovation. Except, that is, for Johann König and Nagel Draxler—at whose Cologne gallery I curated “Breadcrumbs: Art in the Age of NFTism,” through August 21. König has gone as far as staging auctions and initiating his own platform with Dapper Labs— the marketplace known for CryptoKitties and NBA Top Shot Moments—to sell NFTs, while also potentially offering fractionalized ownership opportunities for emerging artworks, just like the wildly popular stock-trading app Robinhood does for meme stocks. I asked Johann, “What are you trying to be with all this frenetic activity?” He replied, without missing a beat: “Amazon!” The question of whether (or not) there is a mass public business for art rivaling Apple and Alibaba remains to be seen.

Here’s a video starring a Paul Thek that is part of Kenny Schachter’s NiftyGateway drop.

Christian Nagel, for his part, is a pillar of the German gallery scene, having opened his first space in Munich in 1986 and, four years later, in Cologne, where he began exhibiting works by the likes of Martin Kippenberger, Franz West, Günther Förg, Michael Krebber, Cosima von Bonin, Andrea Fraser, Charline von Heyl, and Martha Rosler. Saskia Draxler, a philosopher and cultural critic, joined as a partner in 2009. As far as NFTs? Nagel informed me that, were it not for a Clubhouse chatroom when a critic questioned the gallery’s commitment (or rather antipathy) to crypto art, I wouldn’t have found myself in Cologne curating what might well be the first meatspace NFT art show in a conceptual art gallery.

Nagel Draxler gallerist Christian Nagel and me in my new show. Courtesy of Kenny Schachter.

Nagel Draxler gallerist Christian Nagel and me in my new show. Courtesy of Kenny Schachter.

The exhibitions itself is indistinguishable from a non-NFT show inasmuch as there is an installation-based framework upon which photos, computer printouts, paintings, and objects are presented—but it will have a parallel expression as a series of Non-Fungible Token drops, which will follow on OpenSea in the coming weeks. The artists range from such pioneers in the NFT space as R. Myers, Max Osiris, Dot Pigeon, Kevin Abosch, Robness, Osinachi, Ruylton Fyder, Sarah Friend, Olive Allen, and Anna Ridler, commingled with regulars on the contemporary gallery circuit like Tracey Emin, Darren Bader, Eva Beresin, Theo Triantafyllidis, and Koichi Sato (and me, of course!). The imprimatur of the venerated gallery Nagel Draxler is as significant as any of the participating artists in the exhibit, as the embrace of NFTs in such a context speaks volumes about their acceptance, legitimacy, and credibility.

In other news, I received an actual (if unusual) ransom letter last week from Alfred Itchcock, the buyer of the NFT I helped Jerry Saltz release for charity last month. In it, Itchcock stated this was nothing less than an act of digital terrorism and threatened to shred Jerry’s “The First 10,000” unless Saltz engaged in some specific acts regarding the smart contract accompanying his NFT that would entail paying a transaction fee of anywhere between approximately $2,000 to $10,000. Though it wasn’t entirely clear, the purported intent appeared to teach Saltz a lesson for initially criticizing and dismissing NFTs, and (maybe?) prove they have import and significance beyond the low effort Jerry expended on the creation of his.

The self-proclaimed crypto-tax fixer, sure to be the accounting world's busiest man! Courtesy of Kenny Schachter.

The self-proclaimed crypto-tax fixer, sure to be the accounting world’s busiest man! Courtesy of Kenny Schachter.

In Alfred’s own (semi-legible) words: “A concrete consequence of “The First 10,000” being shred is that it stops being transferable. It’ll be “lost” in a sense that’s very real to people here. Not being transferable means it can’t ever be resold so you’ll never get royalties from secondary sales. Hence NFT terrorism 🙂 I don’t encourage burning/shredding NFTs since it’s unfair to the artist. One exception is when used as a counter-trolling move. “The First 10,000” isn’t shred yet, it can still be recovered by making one single Ethereum transaction. If that doesn’t happen by May 28 then surely it’ll be shred and lost forever. Luv you all, Best! Alfred”

He closed with line: “DONT PUT YOUR PRIVATE KEYS IN THE WRONG PLACE.” (Thanks for the heads-up, Alfred!) I responded with my inimitable diplomatic brusqueness, the sentiment of which Jerry was fully aligned with: “We wouldn’t pay 5 cents to save this NFT, so your point (whatever that may be) is moot. Knock yourself out and have a ball.” So long “The First 10,000”… till the next. This encounter affirmed one thing for sure: techies are weird.

An article on Paul Thek was published in The University Chicago Journal quoting the artist from 1965: “The world was falling apart, anyone could see it, I was a wreck, the block was a wreck, the city was a wreck; and I’d go to a gallery and there would be a lot of fancy people looking at a lot of stuff that didn’t say anything about anything to anyone.” At present, the world is a wreck. No, NFTism isn’t going to affect things in the big (or little) scheme of things overall—but art may very well instill a greater sense of empathy and humanism, so sorely missed across the globe in the face of war, Covid, and hatred. I am simply a proponent of more artistic expression and communication in whatever form pleases, and less irrational judgments and actions to the contrary.

 

This is some kind of commercial for Kenny’s Nifty drop, and it’s also included in Kenny’s Nifty drop.

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15 Events for Your Art Calendar This Week, From Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons to a Virtual Visit With Kenny Scharf


Each week, we search for the most exciting and thought-provoking shows, screenings, and events. In light of the global health crisis, we are currently highlighting events in person and digitally, as well as in-person exhibitions open in the New York area. See our picks from around the world below. (Times are all EST unless otherwise noted.)

 

Tuesday, March 2

Ja'Tovia Gary, THE GIVERNY SUITE, detail (2019). © Ja’Tovia Gary. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Steven Probert.

Ja’Tovia Gary, THE GIVERNY SUITE, detail (2019). © Ja’Tovia Gary. Courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Steven Probert.

1. “When Did Video Become Art? On Surveillance” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

If you’re looking for a compact primer on how video moved from its origins in TV broadcasts and security cameras into the art-historical canon, then tune in to the next edition of the Whitney’s ongoing “Art History From Home” series. This week, artist, author, and lecturer Ayanna Dozier will use vital works by the likes of Andrea Fraser, Ja’Tovia Gary, Jill Magid, and others to walk viewers through video art’s complex relationship to our contemporary surveillance state, as well as how artists can use the medium to short-circuit the intrusive machinic gaze we now live under.

Price: Free with registration

Time: 6 p.m. 

—Tim Schneider

 

Kenny Scharf's Los Angeles studio. Photo courtesy of Kenny Scharf Studio.

Kenny Scharf’s Los Angeles studio. Photo courtesy of Kenny Scharf Studio.

2. “Kenny Scharf Virtual Visit” at RxART, New York

RxArt members can tune in for this virtual studio with Kenny Scharf, who will talk about projects such as his mural in the stairwell of the pediatric and adolescent psychiatric units at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn. The street artist-turned-blue-chip darling will chat with dealer David Totah—tuning in from Scharf’s permanent FUNUNDERWORLD installation at his New York gallery—and RxArt founder Diane Brown.

Price: Free for Friends of RxART (membership is $100)
Time: 1 p.m.

—Tanner West 

 

Wednesday, March 3

Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania

Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

3. “The Modern Portrait” hosted by the Philadelphia Show

As part of a monthly series, “New Conversations with the  Philadelphia Show,” University of Pennsylvania associate professor Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw and Philadelphia Museum of Art curator Jessica T. Smith highlight how 15 artists used portraiture to frame their perception of people and experiment with techniques, as well as to reflect on social issues.

Price: Free with registration.
Time: 5:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m.

—Eileen Kinsella

 

Courtesy of the Helsinki Biennial.

Courtesy of the Helsinki Biennial.

4. “Helsinki Biennial Talks – Lecture by Dr. Paul O’Neill: The Biennial Impact” at the Helsinki Biennial

Irish curator, artist, writer, and educator Paul O’Neill will take a look at the worldwide proliferation of the art biennial over the past 20 years, with an eye toward covering “everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask” in the first virtual program for the inaugural Helsinki Biennial.

Price: Free
Time: 9:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m.

—Tanner West 

 

Mildred Thomas, <em> Construction </em> (c. 1973). Courtesy of Galerie Lelong.

Mildred Thomas, Construction (c. 1973). Courtesy of Galerie Lelong.

5. “Dialogues – Expanding the Legacy of Mildred Thompson” at Galerie Lelong, New York

In conjunction with its second solo exhibition of Mildred Thompson—a previously overlooked Black artist of the  Modernist era—”Throughlines, Assemblages and Works on Paper from the 1960s to the 1990s,” Galerie Lelong hosts the second event in its new “Dialogues” series, moderated by Melissa Messina, curator of the artist’s estate. The speakers include artist A’Driane Nieves, founder of Philadelphia’s Tessera Arts Collective, and Lauren Jackson Harris and Daricia Mia DeMarr, founders of Black Women in Visual Art.

Price: Free with registration
Time: 2 p.m.–3 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone

 

Thursday, March 4

Image courtesy of The Shed. Clockwise from top left: Howardena Pindell, Heather Hart, Shani Peters, Tiona Nekkia McClodden. Photos: Nathan Keay; Heather Hart; Texas Isaiah; Chanel Matsunami Govreau.

6. “Pindell’s Legacy: Artists/Activists/Educators” hosted by the Shed

This is your last chance to catch an installment of “Pindell’s Legacy,” a series of online talks exploring the work of artist Howardena Pindell. The talk, moderated by The Shed assistant curator Adeze Wilford, will feature Pindell alongside interdisciplinary artists Heather Hart, Shani Peters, and Tiona Nekkia McClodden. “Pindell’s Legacy” has run in tandem with “Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water,” a video project by the artist that was unrealized since the 1970s. Through a mix of personal anecdotes and historical data, Pindell’s first video in over 25 years explores racism, the history of lynching in the US, and the healing power of art. If you’re in the New York area, you can catch the show in-person at The Shed through March 28.

Price: Free with registration.
Time: 6:30 p.m.

—Katie Rothstein

 

Courtesy of a Blade of Grass

Courtesy of A Blade of Grass.

7. “Making Change Now: Contextualizing Cancel Culture, Hyper-Partisanship, and the Politics of Progress” at a Blade of Grass, New  York

After an organizational restructuring that winnowed the staff of A Blade of Grass to just one—director Deborah Fisher—the nonprofit kicks off its new season of programming with community organizer and cultural worker Scot Nakagawa and racial justice and human rights expert Loretta J. Ross. The two will discuss the influence of the media and the ways in which it helps drive partisan divisions within society, and how people’s consumption of media shapes their beliefs.

Price: Free with registration
Time: 6 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone

 

Sandhya Kochar. Photo courtesy of Sandhya Kochar. Torkwase Dyson. Photo by Gabe Souza. Ann Hamliton. Photo by Calista Lyon.

Sandhya Kochar, Torkwase Dyson, Ann Hamilton. Photos by Gabe Souza and Calista Lyon.

8. “Torkwase Dyson in Conversation with Ann Hamilton and Sandhya Kochar” at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio

The Wexner continues its “Diversities in Practice” talk series with Torkwase Dyson, the museum’s residency award recipient, who will speak about her work with Ohio State art professor Ann Hamilton and architecture lecturer Sandhya Kochar.

Price: Free with RSVP
Time: 7 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone

 

George Mumford. Nadia Hallgren. Photo by JJ Medina.

George Mumford, Nadia Hallgren. Photo by JJ Medina.

9. “Lens Mix 4: Nadia Hallgren and George Mumford” at FotoFocus, Cincinnati

FotoFocus’s LensMix conversation series returns with filmmaker Nadia Hallgren and sports coach George Mumford, who will discuss overcoming professional boundaries facing African Americans to work with the likes of Michelle Obama and Kobe Bryant.

Price: Free with registration
Time: 6 p.m.

—Nan Stewert

Thursday, March 4–Sunday, March 14

Sophie Kahn, <em>The Divers VI</em>. Courtesy of the artist.

Sophie Kahn, The Divers VI. Courtesy of the artist.

10. “Sophie Kahn: Dematerialized” on Mozilla Hubs

Nearly a year after lockdown cancelled her exhibition “Dematerialized” at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Sophie Kahn is finally debuting the show, albeit in dramatically altered form, staged in the world of VR. The artist has recreated both the physical space and the works themselves, which were 3-D printed sculptures based on scans of live models in different poses. You can book a virtual tour where Kahn will guide your avatar through the interactive 3-D experience, in which sculptures expand and levitate off their pedestals as you approach. (A VR headset is recommended, but optional, to experience the show.)

Price: Free with registration
Time: Opening, 6:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m., and by virtual appointment

—Sarah Cascone

 

Friday, March  5

Illustration by franzidraws. Courtesy of the Design Museum Everywhere.

Illustration by franzidraws. Courtesy of the Design Museum Everywhere.

11. “Design’s Role in Equity: Diversity in Action Preview Workshop” at the Design Museum Everywhere, Boston

The Design Museum Everywhere is hosting a free workshop to preview its “Diversity in Action” training program, a three-month course hosted by its director of learning and interpretation, Diana Navarrete-Rackauckas with the aim of illustrating the role design plays in equity.

Price: Free with RSVP
Time: 1 p.m.–2 p.m.

—Nan Stewert

 

Through Saturday, March 6

"Joyce Pensato: Fuggetabout It (Redux)" installation view (2021). Photo courtesy of Petzel.

“Joyce Pensato: Fuggetabout It (Redux),” installation view (2021). Photo courtesy of Petzel.

12. “Joyce Pensato Fuggetabout It (Redux)” at Petzel, New York

In 2011, Joyce Pensato was evicted from her East Williamsburg studio after 32 years. She turned her legal defeat into art, staging a critically acclaimed exhibition at Petzel featuring hundreds of paint-splattered objects from her former workspace. She showed the installation in two other iterations during her lifetime; now, her estate has worked with the gallery to stage a “Redux” version, accompanied by the late artists’s “eyeball” paintings, based on characters such as Elmo and Felix the Cat.

Location: Petzel, 456 West 18th Street, New York
Price: Free
Time: Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone

 

Saturday, March 6

Guests at the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon: Art + Feminism at MoMA. Photo by Manuel Molina Martagon, courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

Guests at the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon: Art + Feminism at MoMA. Photo by Manuel Molina Martagon, courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

13. “The Met x Wikipedia Virtual Edit Meet-up: Women’s History Month” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Met is one of 57 institutions around the world holding an Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon for Women’s History Month. Edit-a-thons look to add information about women artists to the free online encyclopedia to boost efforts to bridge the gender gap in the art world. The Wikimedia NYC chapter will provide lists of artists and artworks, as well as training on editing and creating articles. Tune in on Facebook or YouTube to watch, or sign up on the Wikipedia Meetup page.

Price: Free
Time: 12:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone

 

Through Saturday, March 27

Jordan Kasey, Storm, 2020 Courtesy of Nicelle Beauchene Gallery

14. “Jordan Kasey: The Storm” at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York City

Nicelle Beauchene Gallery presents “The Storm,” Jordan Kasey’s third solo show with the gallery. The show consists of eight new large-scale paintings with the artist’s signature figures that take up the entirety of the surface. The paintings depict slices of loneliness: a solo man with an umbrella, a figure lit up with lightning, which leaves the viewer to wonder if the storm is literal internal. Light and shadow is used to create the feeling that something is looming just out of view, giving each work a surreal, dreamlike quality.

Location: Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, 7 Franklin Place, New York
Price:
 Free
Time: Tuesday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

—Neha Jambhekar

 

Through Saturday, March 20 

Installation view "Eric Standley: Songs for the Living," 2020. Courtesy of Dinner Gallery.

Installation view “Eric Standley: Songs for the Living,” 2020. Courtesy of Dinner Gallery.

15. “Eric Standley: Songs for the Living” at Dinner Gallery

Made of scrupulously arranged layers of multicolor laser-cut paper, Eric Standley’s intricate works bring to mind mandalas, Gothic architectural webs, and the delicate carvings common to Islamic prayer niches. Though newly made, Standley calls the work artifacts because, for him, the act of assembling them is akin to an act of discovering—as though the forms already exist out in the world, and he has happened upon them. Set against bright, geometric forms painted onto the gallery walls, the exhibition has the feel of a sanctum, a place with reverence for complexity, study, and moments of peaceful contemplation.

Location: Dinner Gallery, 242 West 22nd Street, New York
Price: Free
Time: By appointment, Tuesday–Saturday

—Katie White

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