“It’s Not Easy, and if It Was, I’d Be Bored Out of My Mind.” A Chat with Kenny Schacter

Meeting with Kenny Schacter is kind of like shotgunning three of those canned Starbucks energy drinks and then walking into an art gallery: enthusiastically high-octane, nonstop, and buzzing with a true, deep fascination for every single object in view.

I’ve met very few people in my life who legitimately do not care who they offend when it comes to speaking their truth, making good art, and digging into life with passion. Kenny Schacter, from what I can gather from a ninety-minute conversation, is one of those people. He jumps between extraordinarily diverse subject material with ease, talking about accessibility and education barriers in the art industry, then comparing the art world to the mafia, then shifting to a tangent about how it’s possible for an artist to change a critic’s life and vise versa, and then seamlessly sliding into a conversation about what makes art “good.” If that set of thought transitions sounds a little bit exhausting, it’s because in retrospect, it kind of was. But listening to Schacter speak, it’s impossible not to feel infected by his fizzy enthusiasm. He cares so much about every single subject he talks about that the easiest course of action to take is to adopt his sense of enthusiasm and come along for the ride.

“Everything I do is with passion,” he announced at the beginning of his chat with our group, and then he proceeded to prove that point over the next hour and a half. He believes that everyone should have access to art. Art helps people live longer. There shouldn’t be barriers and walls put up detailing what is or isn’t art. Art doesn’t—and can’t—exist in a vacuum, so maybe fancy gallery displays shouldn’t pretend that it does. Craft and art are one and the same, if the craft is done well—and some “art” doesn’t qualify, if it doesn’t genuinely mean something. Schacter’s ideas aren’t necessarily unique to him, but he’s the first person I’ve ever met who could make these broad, controversial statements, truly mean every word, and then deliver a charge to do something about it, all without missing a beat in the conversation.

“Controversial,” I should point out, is probably the word that most people associate with Schacter. He’s not afraid to make broad statements about the art world—and about individual artists, critics, and collectors—that… well, to put it frankly, really piss people off. Schacter explains his willingness to make other people upset by saying, “I don’t want anything from anyone, and that scares people.” I think it might be more than that—I think perhaps he does want something—he wants art to be seen, he wants some of the walls in the industry taken down, he wants more freedom of expression, more freedom of ideas, more wild unique thoughts out and free in the world—but what matters is that he believes so strongly in those ideals that he has absolutely zero problem shouting them from the rooftops, regardless of what the neighbors have to say. And that, I have to admit, is pretty darn powerful—and admirable, because in an industry based entirely on interpretation and aesthetic and subjectivity, someone who doesn’t mind being totally different is incredibly refreshing.

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