It’s Been Repudiated

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Personal / Stories / pk by Age / Art Publisher /
@ K. 2005 11 28

When you’re a kid, everything is mostly all right. If you have a nickel, you’re fine. If you don’t have a nickel you’re probably still fine. Ah, but then we grow up. The trouble with business is that there’s no such thing as enough. The businessman tries to inflate expectations, so everyone has to run, trying to catch up. But the businessman herself is caught up in the same escalator. Even if your own needs are modest, the desires of your associates are not. If I wasn’t terribly greedy, my artists always needed more money: and the more they had, the more they needed.

I was representing, publishing, low to middle end stuff, not very low. My prices were like $75 to $300 retail: at first. My big surge toward infinite inflation came with publishing Robert Vickrey. I wanted to bring them out at $600 pre-pub, raise them right away to $750 as the opening price, then, as they sold, raise them to $1,000, to $2,000. At $600, selling all, we’d lose money. At $750, we wouldn’t go broke, would tread water. But at $1,000 … we’d begin to get somewhere.

At an ArtExpo at the Coliseum I ran into a publisher who was very impressed that I was doing Vickrey. He was a fan. He couldn’t wait to see them. I recognized the guy from the Village, got his card. Hell, he was right across the street from my good customer, the Brewster Gallery: 7th, just below 14th.

The problem, the first problem, was that I was supposed to be working with Misha’s money: do ten editions the first year, $25,000 budget per. Misha had approved it, said the money was no problem; then never came up with a dime. I was anxious to get rolling: and I made a terrible mistake: I raised the money for the first edition from a third party, assuring them that they would then have to stand aside and let Misha in. At best, they stood to become a secondary partner.

Now for their $25,000, had my food and rent been otherwise taken care of, I could have, and should have, published four or five good Vickreys. I had to give the artist $5,000 up front: and I had: out of my own fast dwindling pocket. My new partner’s $25,000 paid me back for that, leaving $20,000. I figured printing to cost like $3,500 per. Squeeze out a few editions and see what’s left.

Meantime, I was wheeling and dealing, not selling. Suddenly I had to live off capital: other people’s capital. But I was on a roller coaster and couldn’t get off. Mixing the metaphor, I’d cranked open the accelerator on a powerful motorcycle, and was accelerating so fast I didn’t know how long I could hold on.

As it turned out, just the first edition soaked up all the money. I wound up not even being able to pay for ads I took when the money was in the bank. By the time the ad ran and the bill was due, I was broke.
The problems that arose with the first edition weren’t all Misha’s fault. They may not even have been all Ido’s fault. Ido had been Circle’s chromist, then Eleanor Ettinger’s chromist. Ido had done Picasso’s etc. in Paris. I had complete confidence in Ido. I showed Ido the Vickreys. “Can you do this?” “Yes.” Notice the quality of the light through the egg tempera: can you mimic some significant portion of that in lithography?” “Yes.” I believed Ido could do anything he said he could do.

Boy, was I wrong. The lithograph didn’t glow; the egg tempera painting, a medium at which Vickrey is (technically) THE master, did. By the end I no longer believed that Ido even knew how to see, let alone how to tell the truth.

So: initially we solved it by Vickrey touching a dozen or two of the prints with his own hand. But I had no contacts with any market for the high-end kind of a product we were “inventing”: mixed media: lithograph and egg tempera. Vickrey trained one of my secretaries to wash on the egg tempera. The rent, the rents, had to be paid: home, office, gallery … Salaries had to be paid. And next to no money was coming in.

Well, all I have to do now is sell ten of the Vickreys a week, do a better job on a second edition, and … Forget it. The whole thing crashed.

Bitter with this string of disappointments, having to work at what had always come naturally — flashing a smile as I opened my portfolio that put the gallery owner in my pocket. I drag my sorry ass to this guy on 7th below 14th. He’s ready to see the Vickreys. I pull out the one solitary graphic.

“Eewww, you chose one of the cute ones. I like the dark, surreal ones.”

Well, so did I. But I was trying to make money. You can’t make a living by choosing the best art.
I looked around. What did this guy have that was so wonderful? His gallery displayed nothing.
Suddenly, I realized. This guy is rich. The gallery is a hobby, a place to meet and seduce young male esthetes. A couple of months ago this creep was oozing his enthusiasm for my eye, for my judgment, all over me. Now he doesn’t want to actually write a check. Or I’ve pissed him off. Or he only just noticed that I’m not queer.

What he said I didn’t disagree with. When I chose the little blond girl, I didn’t have sepulchral faggots in mind.

Robert Vickrey, The Visitor
The Visitor

The scan was of the painting, not the lithograph. The ad had to be made first, not second.

I chose her for blondness, for her aura, for the hint of a cross in the composition … and for the shadows like stained glass (note though that this cathedral has bars, like a prison!). Maybe this gallery owner was an atheist too.

I know when not to beat a dead horse. I packed my portfolio back up. Juggled it with the book I was stupidly carrying, and prepared to leave.

“What are you reading?” inquired this intellectual.

“The Brethren. Very revealing. Have you read it?”
“It’s been repudiated,” he answered with a sneer. And turned away.

That was like 1979, maybe 1980. Do I have the authors right? Woodward & Armstrong? Regardless, there was a book published around 1979 on the inner workings of the US Supreme Court. It was doing well, despite seeming to be truthful; not apologist propaganda, the crap we’re bombarded with all the time. This award-winning best seller has been repudiated? ?!?!?

And it struck me: not only was this Charles Adams queer rich, not only was he a poseur, possibly an atheist, he was a goddam Marxist!

I told a story the other day in which an anarchist talking about “The Correct Interpretation of History” on that instant had rung my alarm bells. The diction is revealing. Does anyone but a Marxist talk about history having a “correct” interpretation? It’s worse than, certainly as bad as, any religion! Am I right? Is not “repudiated” of the same stamp?

Keywords: repudiate, left, Marxist

Stories by Theme by Age

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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