Saturday, July 28, 2012


These days, everybody is an "independent curator." Dubious qualifications, suspicious sources of motivation and conflicts of interest seem to be the only unifying quality possessed by this cadre of cultural hangers-on. Even my ordinarily sober minded friend David Schoffman has contracted the curatorial virus.

Eius Rationatione is a recent exhibition at Gallerie Guanxi on Rue Denis Poisson in the 17eme arrondissement and it has created quite a sensation. Though the work is unremarkable David has been tireless in its promotion. Throughout the entire month of June you couldn't pick up a French art magazine without reading some prattling puff piece planted by Schoffman and his mindless minions.

Vers eudaimonia, Lucien Magnotta, distemper and glass on enamel, 2011

The putative theme was the "deliberate dissembling of tradition-based craftsmanship," (dissimulation délibéré de l'artisanat basé sur la tradition) though not all the critics were so easily persuaded. I've included an image from Lucien Magnotta and one from Annette Accro just to give you an idea of the kind of work he included.

Défection de gamins, Annette Accro, collage, 2012
And yet, for some inexplicable reason, David has received at least four new invitations to curate shows. He is going to Berlin in August to supervise the installation of ätherisch Objektat at the Weißaugenmöwen Kunsthalle. Then he returns to Los Angeles to work on something he refuses to talk about. (I can't be sure but I suspect it has something to do with an opportunity that suddenly presented itself- a consequence of the small insurrection at their Museum of Contemporary Art.) Then he comes back here to put together a survey of recent French/Algerian works-on-paper.

I don't begrudge his success I just wish he would include me from time to time.
Il m'a planté!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Soft Power

The Tuda Mengu Mosque in Ulan Bator is a modest affair. Though Mongolia's Muslim population has dwindled to just under 150,000, the capitol still maintains a few remnants of a more illustrious past. The local imam, Migjid Abdulmajid carries on valiantly while his community steadily emigrates to places like Dubai, Kuwait, Toronto and Teaneck, New Jersey. My well connected friend David Schoffman has recently visited the region as part of a State Department delegation seeking closer cultural ties to the international Islamic world and returned with a curious and rather beautiful souvenir.

Postcard of the Tuda Mengu Mosque, Ulan Bator, Mongolia
 As is well known, during the late 18th century certain draconian measures were introduced throughout the Bayan Olgii countryside in order to test the obedience of the rural population. Among the severe and arbitrary prohibitions were smoking, singing, chess playing, archery and usury. To circumvent these laws a group of insurgent peasants called the Minyins invented an intricate and visually stunning game called Khatya. The game shares a few common themes with the 6th century Indian game of Parcheesi but is vastly more complicated. The precise rules are the subject of bitter controversy, - the last proficient player died in 1963 - but people continue to own and cherish their Khatya sets.

18th century Khatya board, Bayantooroi, Mongolia
As a gift giving culture, the Mongolian Muslims practice a wonderfully creative form of generosity. David returned to Los Angeles with yak skin slippers, dried gojiberries, a Mongolian violin called a khuurchir and a gorgeous, hand-painted, birch Khatya board.

I think David gave his hosts official United States State Department tennis balls and blocks of surplus cheese.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Guarda com'entri e di cui tu ti fide"

It is well known that my highly principled and ethically misguided friend David Schoffman rarely welcomes visitors to his studio. He guards his privacy with meticulous brutality. Even Lord Myron Noccimick, the esteemed éminence grise of the British Royal Collection was shunned by Schoffman a few years back.  David claimed at the time that he had a debilitating toothache,  a perverse tribute since he never deems it necessary to offer any pretexts for his antisocial behavior.

The rare guest must be vetted, groomed, briefed and forewarned before setting foot anywhere near Schoffman's works-in-progress.
So it was with no small measure of bewilderment that I learned that David recently hosted Silicon Valley entrepreneur Stanley Sansal and his partner Ulrich Powell.

Daphna Ahf-Zahav, Ulrich Powell, Stanley Sansal and Schoffman, Culver City, 2012

Credit Daphna Ahf-Zahav, associate curator for contemporary art at Dubai's Kunsthalle Sachererahp for facilitating this rare event. I'm told that the typically laconic David was unusually forthcoming. He expressed great interest in Sansal's latest venture, MetiTechtm, a start-up devoted to identifying common, cross-continental genetic blueprints in order to scientifically challenge the orthodoxies of race.

Both Powell and Sansal were reciprocally conversant as well in the intricacies of the international avant-garde (they are both sitting members on the Sachererahp board) and were particularly knowledgeable regarding Schoffman's entire oeuvre.

Things got a bit frothy when Daphna innocently asked about the Guillermoprêtre affair. (I'm of course referring to the unsolved 1999 murder of former Schoffman studio assistant and heiress to the Algerian caliphite, Angélique Guillermoprêtre). It's one of about two dozen subjects that one best avoid around David - I'm surprised Ahf-Zahav was unaware of that. Attempts to diffuse the discomfort were of no avail and in the end Powell and Sansal were not permitted to purchase the fifteen paintings they had set their hearts on.  

It's just as well. Sansal is going to need that extra $250,000. His company is now embroiled in a nasty bit of litigation. It seems that MetiTechtm software has established a strong genetic link between Nicolae Ceauşescu and Buddy Hackett. The heirs of both clans are none too pleased.