Kenny Schachter

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Kenny Schachter is an icon when it comes to Art. He grew up in the US and had not touched Art before he was 27. Kenny studied Philosophy and is a Jurisdictional Lawyer – with zero intention of practicing law. After starting as an Art Dealer, he curated many exhibitions. He is a writer, a teacher, an artist, and so much more: A truly talented individual who entered the NFT space over a year and a half ago. His energy makes him a force of nature with a presence across the NFTism sphere. Your NFT Granny had the pleasure of being invited for a fantastic face to face lunch.

NFT Granny: „Dear Kenny – thank you for your precious time and the ability to meet you here in Person in St. Moritz.
In many interviews, you mentioned the time in the NFT spaces is like Dog years? What will happen once the speed is equal to normal time?“

Kenny Schachter: This will never happen because the innovation and technology are evolving so rapidly, and the velocity is just crazy.
There’s so much brainpower focusing on technological innovation.

Most people have a hard time adapting to change. And people have a defence mechanism to resist change.
People who lead the way in technological experimentation, innovation and development keep forging ahead.
While researching human resistance, I came across a study that explored this defence mechanism. The way we resist change is to dismiss things without really making an effort or spending the time to understand or appreciate them.

So I read this one study that stated: If you show people a work of art, and date it from 1905, and then you show people the same piece but dated from 2021, people like the older painting much more than the one from 2021.
It’s human nature for people to appreciate something that has been around for a long time.

I think that we have unique capacity as a species as humans to think, conceptualize and invent, as well as create, unlike any other species such as animals, and at the same time, as it’s tough for people to adapt to what’s new.
I don’t think there will never be a balancing point where people just accept things as they transpire. It’s too complicated for people.

How did you first become interested in art, and how did you get started with it yourself?

Kenny Schachter: I guess you often hear stories like as children, we were taken to galleries, taken to museums, and exposed to art from an early age.I’ve never been exposed to art. In fact, I didn’t even know that art galleries existed until I was nearly 27. I studied philosophy and went to a museum, the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington, DC. The moment I saw that art, it impacted me subconsciously. I thought that an artist made art and the artwork went to a museum, which was the end of the equation.
But Art was not my professional life back then, I just knew what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want routine. Nothing that would be repetitive.

I didn’t want to spend my life doing something nor capitulate to any kind of market concern. Marx said, “why can’t you be an economist in the morning and a fisherman in the afternoon”, and I just didn’t want to settle or compromise professionally. I earned a degree in political science and philosophy, and the professional perspective was limited to teaching.
So I thought that I would get a joint degree. I enrolled in law school, and academically, I wasn’t very good.

I had zero intention of practicing law, but that was a way to hide from the working world and having three years to collect my thoughts. I quit going to school halfway through first year but I remained enrolled in classes that I didn’t attend. I took on a series of full-time jobs and told my family and employers that I was in night school, when in fact there was no night school.

Then I took the exams and worked on the floor of the American Stock Exchange. I got a part-time job as a legal writer for a law firm.

And that’s how I refined my writing skills. Then I finished law school and took the bar exam.
Immediately after the exam, I handed out my resume to hundreds of offices in the Garment District in New York, and I thought maybe fashion would be a way to pursue my career path.

I tried fashion as it was the only thing that made sense to me. That said, I got the most basic job like Willy Loman (from Death of a Salesman), carrying around these gigantic suitcases to sell men’s neckties in various stores across the East Coast of the United States. And it was as awful as it sounds.

Suddenly I found myself in an existential crisis. I would have a pathological fear of getting lost. And I would have to drive around with these gigantic suitcases filled with ties.

His Grandma was proud, but: He minted her.
„i tokenized my grandma blanche“ by Kenny Schachter
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Somehow, I managed to pass the bar. I thought a part-time job in a law firm wouldn’t be too bad and ended up with a job writing motions for court cases.
Some time later, a friend dragged me to the estate sale of Andy Warhol at Sotheby’s. It was an eye-opening experience to see, that art existed in a commercial context. It was a revelation.

A few months later, I saw an ad in the newspaper for an exhibition of prints and photographs by Cy Twombly, Sigmar Polke and Joseph Beuys – My German heritage as well as my background in philosophy gave me a natural inclination to visit this exhibition.

I started going to exhibitions, and I’ll never forget the feeling of going into a gallery is unlike any other kind of commercial setting where you’re immediately get judged. You are assessed physically up and down; they look at you and make associations.

I had never seen a gallery where they’re so exclusionary and pigeonholing you into who and what you are and check you from head to toe.

It was shocking and stuck with me. It is what I put in my writing; in my art-making; in my teaching: I constantly analyse what happens to art once it’s disseminated: the dissemination of art from the studio of the artists to when it enters the stream of commerce and all the machinations of the marketplace and the art world.
And really, there’s no other business in the world that operates with the same mentality and mindset like the art world. I guess because I’m an outsider, I’ve never taken an art class in my life until I conned my way into a teaching job.

Back to the Gallery: I was a part-time lawyer at that point. I went to JPMorgan Chase Bank, and tried to take out a loan for $10,000. They looked at me, and I argued that I want to buy some art with it.
And of course, they turned their head sideways like confused dogs and said: No. But I was already making X amount of money by that time at the law firm.
My law firm manager called the bank, and I suddenly received the loan. Immediately after that I started to be an Art Dealer.
I call myself an idiot upon a dealer. I bought art, and subsequently went to galleries, trying to sell the art so I could carve out a place for myself in the art world. But – I don’t have the personality to be a seller. That’s why I had to admit that it would never work the way I wanted to. I never wanted to be an art dealer. However, it was the only way to get a foothold in the art world.
At the same time, I could teach anyone post-war art off the street, but I knew I needed to learn what happened before the war. That is why I needed to learn art history, and I couldn’t bear the thought of going back to school.

So I did it my way: I went to the New School for Social Research and said I’d like to teach. But with all means: Now I never shut up, but I was overweight and nearly catatonic as a child – I had a speech impediment – I stuttered – I couldn’t even talk.
I remember sitting in front of a dean and said: I want to teach a class on art, conceptual art history.
And he said: Well, you’ve never taken an art class, but you have a legal degree.
So I said: Well, that’s right.
He said: You could teach six Art classes, and we’ll see how that goes.

Then he left, and I was on the books at the school as an adjunct professor. I bought the New Art History Book, a generic book that everyone reads written by Johnson. And I would read three chapters and then teach them. I had to drink a beer beforehand because I was petrified. And I just carried on like that. Ever since I have been teaching.
That was in 1992. And now I’ve lectured at Yale, the Guggenheim and in the Smithsonian Museum. I’ve been teaching for 12 or 13 years at the University of Zurich.
And as well at the Art Institute of Chicago, all over the world. I teach to learn. And I write to give a deeper meaning to some mundane things that I have to do to make a living.
As soon as I found out about the art world, I just felt like doing it.
I was inspired by what I had seen from the Museum in Washington to Warhol and then going to shows, and I thought again: I’ve always had an outsider kind of mentality because I’ve never been inside.
I’ve been doing it for 30 plus years, so I’m more inside than I’ve ever been.

But back then there were so many galleries in New York City, and I’m 27 years old. How can I bring anything to the table, that isn’t already there? The most extraordinary art galleries in the world are there.

So I thought, as the world was not really globalized back in the 80s – I can go travel.

I started travelling and went to studios, through friends of friends; I would meet one person; go to galleries and to museums. I would buy some art and bring it back to New York to sell it through Sotheby’s and Christie’s and other dealers. I was a dealer to dealer.

Then I thought it would be cool to curate and we did Pop-Up Exhibitions before the term Pop-Up even existed.

There was a deep recession from 1990 to 1996. I started to take over exhibition space and then throw together a group show. Most of the times I barter for spaces. Further I started including my own work into the show. There is no conflict of interest: If you’re transparent, then you have integrity, to some extent, not saying that I’m perfect.

“Unlearning,” curated by Kenny Schachter, New York, NY, December 4, 1991 – January 26, 1992
“7 Rooms/7 Shows,” curated by Kenny Schachter, MoMA P.S., Long Island City, NY, November 8, 1992 – January 10, 1992
“I Was Born Like This,” curated by Kenny Schachter, 238 Mulberry Street, New York, NY, January 21 – March 6, 1993
“Looky Loo,” curated by Kenny Schachter, Sculpture Center, New York, NY, April 1 – April 25, 1995

There’s another photography that I made in 1999. That’s in the show METADADA with the Nagel Draxler Galerie in Berlin from 14. January 2022 to 16. April 2022.
The Art photography was created at a time as something went down the wrong tube, and it’s still choking me. I wrote the word dealer around my face.

It was based on the fact that the singer Prince wrote the word „slave“ on his face when he was in a bad record contract because the record company was producing so much music. They didn’t want to keep releasing the music as he made it because it would cannibalize the sales of his records. He was operating at an inhuman speed of creativity.
It didn’t fit within the confines of how the industry standards and norms were at the time. So he wanted to get out of the contract. He walked around literally with this word. And he said, if I want to make a fool of myself, it’s my prerogative.

„Dealer“ by Kenny Schachter

If something occurs to me – if I want to make a song, or to produce a stupid, incriminating photograph of someone – I do it, and then I get criticized a lot by my family and others. But that is my mantra. I do it.
So I wrote the word dealer on my face because it had to do with the fact that a dilettante was considered favourably historically in the art world. Still, I mean, if I was a dealer automatically, I could never do anything else. I was branded as a dealer, and that’s the only way the world would interpret me.

In 1997 I organised “Cambio“ (“exchange“ in Spanish), which was a series of group shows organized in temporary spaces. As in the past, young artists were on hand, the energy level was high to manic, and lively ideas (some better than others) filled the air.

“Cambio”, 526 West 26th St., New York, NY, November 1997
Some of Kenny’s early oversized computer print works at “Cambio”, 526 West 26th St., New York, NY, November 1997

This shot was taken before I got mugged in the gallery. After the Robbery I fell back in love with NY. I staged a live simulcast internet broadcast of whatever happened in the gallery as an art work, including getting mugged – even before they stole my camera.

“I hate New York», 107 Shoreditch High St., London, UK, May – June 2000
Different View of “I hate New York», 107 Shoreditch High St., London, UK, May – June 2000
Art Work by Kenny Scharf from an installation curated by Kenny Schachter, New York, 2000

As the time on earth is limited, I do whatever I want to do.  If I feel like singing, I write and sing a song. I’ve made two music videos relating to NFTS, one called „Money Money Money“ because all you ever hear is that NFT’s and Money anyway.

Rather than being the smartest or the most talented creative mind, I have a great degree of determination, perseverance, doggedness, and tenacity.

Money Money Money by Kenny Schachter
Which of your artworks are you most proud of? 

Kenny Schachter: In a way, it’s my show METADADA in Berlin. And it’s an interesting question because it’s the whole body of the presentation. It’s not just a particular artwork, video, or a two-dimensional work or sculpture.
It’s this whole kind of practice that I’ve been able to carve out for myself. It’s like the installation in Germany. There’s an installation covering the walls, the floor, and the ceiling with text. When you write a text for a magazine, it disappears within a matter of hours, and it’s buried and gone. It always has a shelf life of carbon 14. Your work on the internet is there forever.

I made a video when I uncovered a story where the Prince of Saudi Arabia bought a Leonardo da Vinci. There’s a gigantic yacht, and a little boat is driving along in unstable waters. And then one of the guys on the little boat throws this Leonardo onto the boat, and it gets splashed with water.

„MY Leonardo!“ by Kenny Schachter
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Then I did this other piece with an elephant sucking its dick. It’s a sculpture. And it’s a metaphor for everything from politics to the art world as to how we try to please ourselves if we’re alone, living in the suburbs and alienated. I like funny things – to employ humour in my work.

„Forbidden Amuse Yourself“ by Kenny Schachter

I think the old world is a place where people take themselves too seriously. And I used to say that we’re not curing cancer in the art world, so we should relax a little bit. But now, clinical studies show that living with art has positive health effects.
There’s a hospital in London I did some work with, where they’re accredited as a museum. And they’ve done studies showing that living with art reduces anxiety, depression and even reduces your heart rate.

In that case, art helps. As life on this planet is so short, you need to give meaning to it.

I had to suffer from the loss of my mom when I was very young. One of my four kids died three years ago. My kids are the most important thing to me. In a cruel, complex, and tragic world, it is about imbuing your life with meaning. Through art, I found the reason: I didn’t want to find myself – I didn’t want to do the negative – I didn’t want routine – I didn’t want repetition – I didn’t want to live to the weekend or holiday.

I think that art is a means of communication. Art can exist. If you put a painting of a Van Gogh in the forest, it’s not going to have much effect. It still is a painting – It’s still art. But art is a pre-verbal form of communication and expression. It’s a way for human beings to create an identity for themselves. This is also a way to relate to other people and find commonality and common grounds.

What I love about NFTs is that typically you’re in the art world before NFTs.
It was always like this, this myopic kind of communication strain where you only talk. I always say that I never get to talk about art because I worked in the art world, and no one wants to hear about it. But what I love about NFTs is that it brings together coders, mathematicians, and people from different walks of life.

I guess it’s a big chance for everyone interested in art because now everyone can collect art which wasn’t possible before. If you ask for the price of an art piece in a Gallery, it’s the worst thing you can do. And now you can collect art and be a trader. It is a misconception to think that art is expensive or NFTs are costly. The average price of an NFT is $15 to $75.

What is your favorite platform for mints?

Kenny Schachter: I created my own website to release these Mutts, and I’m starting a new web 3.0 site called NFTism, a term that I trademarked.
NFTism is more of a discourse and the community. The involved people are more interesting than the concept of in and of itself.

CryptoMutts #3742
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CryptoMutts #6409
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CryptoMutts #8654
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For sure Opensea is the default platform for looking at and perusing.
I’m in discussions to work with Knownorigin.

I had my first drop with Nifty Gateway before Beeple had sold his first piece, and I’ve always had good experiences with them.

That was my introduction into the space when I first found out about NFTs, and I was put in touch with Tommy Kimmelman, who I think studied business at Stanford. He ended up being the site’s curator because there was no one else in the office. This is funny, but I had good experiences with Nifty Gateway and Superrare.

Now I’m going to try a company called Manifold, and they’re pretty exclusively smart-contract developers.
In the past, they would only work with people like PAK and Mad Dog Jones, and now they’ve created an app.
It’s called Studio Manifold. Instead of when I did my Crypto Mutts I worked with the developer, and I deployed the contract myself on Etherscan and also minted it myself.
Now they’ve simplified the whole process of minting. Any artist could go to the app and mint their own contract without having to write a smart contract.

I’m not wedded to any particular platform.
I’m kind of ambivalent about it. There’s not THE great one. Coinbase could very well replace Opensea.
We’ll see, so I’m agnostic.

NFTism trademarked by Kenny Schachter
What is currently missing not fully developed to reach full potential?

Kenny Schachter: I would like to see Ethereum 2 come out, and I would like to see the whole environmental issue solved.

And people should open their minds and be open to new things. A self-fulfilling prophecy about how awful this whole space is.
For the first time in art history the artist gets paid, and the artist pays the gallery.
That has never happened. So, I would like to see people lighten up a little and show that there are NFT artists. One artist who I am crazy about is Sarah Friend. A young Canadian who lives in Berlin. A woman who taught herself to code after studying painting. She has done a lot for the community, not for profit work regarding universal pay, wage equality and environmental.

Another talent is Kevin Abosch. And another girl who goes by the name 8bit_titty, an African-American girl who lives in Denver.
Who makes these crazy, extraordinary videos with the most phenomenal titles.
If you take the time to look, you’ll find equally good Art in the digital context through NFT context as you will in a gallery.

So why do people just wholeheartedly write something off and dismiss it without even taking the time to look. There’s a lot of room for change and justice.
The battle shouldn’t be about these generalizations. It’s just a waste of energy.
I am learning as I go. I was a crypto cynic before; I thought it was just bullshit. And I had no interest in this fake currency or digital store value with these hucksters selling it.

And it just didn’t interest me, but I could only tell from my own experience since I have been involved. I have been able to develop an audience for my final artwork. So, I was able to get a gallery. At Basel art fairs I was like a Trojan horse.
I would never have dreamed in a million years to be not in one but two Basels.
And I’ve made money that helped me survive and pay my bills, you can call it anything you want, but I’m not a criminal. I’m an artist, a writer, and a teacher, and my experience has been so positive.

And the whole Discord: There’s a whole new dynamic with creators and audience.
The audience is in direct touch with the creator for the first time in these forums. And there are great conversations, but many negative people around as well. I get criticized for a whole other set of reasons.
It’s a new flow of feedback that never existed before.
I’m in my Crypto Mutts Discord every day. I have no real community manager at all.

Do People ask you about your road map?

Kenny Schachter: I’m not Stalin. I don’t have a five-year plan. I don’t know what time I’m leaving this lunch with you. I’ve been away for seven weeks.
With my show in Berlin, talk at the Engadin Art Talks. I don’t know what time my flight is on Monday.
I don’t know what I’ll be doing next week, so how can I tell you what my five-year road map is for a set? All I know is that I’m ambitious.
I have a lot of energy which makes up for my lack of intelligence, and everything I do will be applied equally to the crypto mutts at my gallery life.
It’s all going to be combined, so if you believe in me and my work, that’s the road map. I’m the road map.

What do you like to do when you’re not busy with NFTs?

Kenny Schachter: For me, heaven is sitting at a table with a computer and good Wi-Fi.
Tell me that you would give me the $100,000 holiday on the beach in the most excellent hotel: I would be mortified – I would be miserable.
For me, heaven is a big cup of coffee, a computer, and good Wi-Fi, and I love to research, read and think.

The Library of Congress is the most substantial library, probably in the United States. Endless Archive of information, and now we have that on our fingertips on our computer or Smartphone.
I love to get into this rabbit hole of just drifting from one article, or one song will spur research into another song and another situation, and that’s how I get ideas for things just from reading.

Dear Kenny – thank you for your time, patience and the Lunch Invitation👵
  • Full Name: Kenny Schachter
  • Date of Birth: December 16th, 1961
  • Current hometown: New York, USA
  • Languages he speaks: English
  • What did you want to be when you were a child: I have no idea, I still don’t know. I just want to keep growing.
  • Education: Philosophy and political science at George Washington University and completed a JD at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York
  • First Job: My first big full-time job was my last job. I remain unemployable.

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