Jonathan Grossmalerman: The Age of Austerity

Painter of the female anatomy Jonathan Grossmalerman visits the Armory Show, from the April 2015 issue

By Jonathan Grossmalerman

Courtesy the artist

New York is an unforgiving town… And by that, I mean it holds a grudge. Since what was left of my collector base recently found themselves on the wrong end of a Gazprom shake-up and were summarily executed in full public view on the Nevsky Prospect (WTF Russia?) I’ve had to become more discerning regarding how I spend my money. Gone are the days of ‘one-wear’ Guccis and wiping my ass with the downy neck of a goose. (So unbelievably soft!) My pressed jeans are faded at the crease line and some of the ‘turmeric-infused foam’ I had for dinner at Momofuku’s got on my favourite hand tailored shirt the other night… and I’m wearing it anyway!!!!

Insomuch as I’ve been down in the dumps, I decided to attend this year’s Armory Show assuming that misery loves company and hard-luck stories would abound. That is, if any of the stories I’ve been hearing were true! Like about how smaller galleries were being forced out of existence by bigger galleries, and hushed tales of bounced cheques, and smallish tips left at restaurants and also, of course, all of those unexplained murders.

I arrived looking forward to some good kibitzing, maybe a few hugs, meaningful glances and wistful smiles at how we were all surviving, all these years later, in this mixed up, crazy world of contemporary art.

I ran into the lanky Casper Grünbaggerwert of Neue Immer Tunnel, Frankfurt & Toronto. I had heard that he’d recently lost his entire roster of artists and I couldn’t help but notice the contusion on his left cheekbone.

“Hi Casper!” I said hugging him. I whispered in a concerned and friendly voice with my hands clasping his arms in the manner a real friend might do. “How is the fair going?”

“Oh! It’s going great! We’ve sold out the booth!” he exclaimed.

“Oh, but what about the artists who left the gallery?”

“Not a problem! I got new ones!”

I looked around. Yes. He had found new ones. Terrible, terrible new ones.

“That’s great Casper!”

“If you’re interested in one of these I can maybe get you one!”

“I thought they were all sold?”

“Of course, just, you know, in case, one becomes free… for some reason.”

“Thanks Casper, I’ll think about it… great show!” I waved goodbye.

Casper waved back “You know where I am!”

I moved on to booth 673 and saw Jayne Cobett of Mattatuck & Tyler Gallery, New York, Paris & Berlin. She appeared to be crying and I wasn’t surprised. Her booth, in all honesty, looked awful. Anonymous process paintings hastily arranged on the wall. A real hack job: a dirty hobo covered in his own shit would have looked more compelling. I moved to comfort her.

“There, there Jane… I’m sure it’s going to be fine…”

“What are you talking about?” she said. “I’m crying with happiness! I just sold out the booth!”

“What? You did?” “In the first two hours of the fair!!! I have to get more work here!” She blinked nervously.

“That’s great Jane.”

“Do you like them? They’re good right?”

“Congratulations… looks great!” And I retreated from the stall.

She called out “If you want one let me know… I can give you a good discount,” and returned her face to her handkerchief in order to continue bawling.

I walked past the miles of art shambles through busy, smiling faces. The miserable Nigel Wigerberry of Gristle & Windsor, London, New York & Leipzig, smiled and waved. A visibly shaken Marian Pitchacouskiarian of RELENTLESS Gallery, Zurich, Essen & Chicago, smiled and waved and the always near death Gunther Kamchuckowsky, GRUMBLEHEIM Galerie, Rostock, Copenhagen & Wolverhampton, propped himself on an assistant and smiled and waved. Finally I came upon a gallery I knew was in terrible financial trouble. Not only was he being investigated by the French government for shady dealings, but his wife had recently died in a cooking accident – with her lover – and his daughter had just run away to go fight with ISIS. Thomas Vitrineoux stood at the edge of his empty booth gazing nervously at the crowd.

“Jonathan Grossmalerman!” He yelped and threw his arms around me. “How good it is to see you!”

“How’re you doing Thomas?”

“Pffft! Never better! Sold out the whole booth! I’m selling all my art like, ’ow you say? Like hotcakes!!”

I looked around his stall at the paltry offerings on display and had a horrible thought.

Am I the only one doing terribly? 

This article was first published in the April 2015 issue.