Bash Compactor: A Lingering Art

Written by Matt Harvey on . Posted in Bash Compactor, Posts.

Last Wednesday night, approximately 150 art lovers, artists and
hipsters mooching free Grolsch braved the cold to write the final
chapter of the Guild & Greyshkul gallery.

The Wooster
Street gallery—a multiartist space known for taking a chance on young
untried talent—had rode the crest of overvaluation and was getting out
when the it was still good. One of the space’s owners, sharp-featured Johannes Vanderbeek—a tuft
of chest hair poking out from his sweater—didn’t need a weatherman to
know which way the wind was blowing. “We didn’t want to get into debt,
and start taking money from the artists,” he explained honestly. Rents might go down, I
prodded hopefully. “Yeah, but, we haven’t paid ours in three months,”
he shot back. I shook the man’s hand and went on my way.

The crowded
space was packed with paintings, sculptures, multi-media installations
and even human puppet shows. I wasn’t the only one to kick a small
torso bust that was laid out on the floor. The only thing funnier than
Polaroid-camera-clutching Ryan Johnson’s purple sculpture of
Clara Bow holding a cigarette was the price he quoted for it. Looking
puzzled he said, “It’s around 20…or maybe 15 grand, I never can

I’m not sure what was more inviting about Isabel Asha Penzlien; her
Teutonic good looks, or the pint of whiskey she was clutching.
Penzlien, who had a small photo in the exhibition, passed me the bottle
and explained: “It’s cold out.” She said the art market crash wasn’t
the worst thing for people like her. “It’s nice to make money, but
we’re all artists of the heart here.” Around the icy corner at
art-fashion franchise Deitch, it was still 2007. Multimedia star Ben Jones was having his first big show. “What we do is completely unaffected by market trends,” curator Kathy Grayson sniffed.
“A hiccup only affects the part-time collectors, the dabblers.The
hardcore ones keep at it and the majority of our price point is from
$10,000 to $50,000 but goes to $5,000,000.”

“Oh, that’s too
cheap to be affected?” I asked. She glared at me. “The prices on both
ends of the spectrum [cheap and expensive] are not affected.”

Jones, himself, was less sanguine. How are you going sell these video installations? Hiding from his well wishers in a corner, the tall, shy artist admitted; “I don’t think anyone really knows yet.”