I’m guessing that now’s a good time to introduce myself:
I’m Max Poe, the guy Punch keeps snarking at; benefactor, slave-driver, pimp…keeper of the keys! I am the capitalist owner of the mode of production. The hand that feeds Punch’s skinny ass.
I’m Maximillian Poe, sifting through e-mail, ticking off appointments, arranging an itinerary for a stable of unstables. I’m looking through the books, yes: taking account of accounts.
Admittedly, I”m drinking too much. I’m eating too much. I’m smoking too much. I’m traveling and partying too much. It’s part of the fucking job. Another part of the job is telling yourself you’re the good guy: you have to repeat it like a mantra. You have to stay present to it; live in it.
And I’m aware, mind you, that I’m supposed to be the villain, in this story — would HAVE to be, in any contemporary tale that allows the artists to speak. It’s where the whole machine went kaput, you know: when we started allowing the artists to speak.
I only ask that you take a good look at me, too — the world I built up around my artists; the homes I found for their work. Then listen to them trash talk the money, and me along with it.
In my tale, I’m the not the nice guy, mind you: but I AM the good guy. I’m the hard-working guy. I’m the smart guy: the builder, the planner; I’m the guy that’s holding it all together, dammit. No, I’m not the nice guy, but I AM the goddam hero.
Look: I’ve had Benjamin Punch on my roster since he was a kid straight out of fucking art school. I pulled him up from the squat he was freezing in. I saw that he had something mighty to put out there so I worked hard to give him the wherewithal to make it. And I can tell you honestly that all I wanted back was a star.
ANd that’s what I got. for a while. A star and all that comes with it: the boosted reputation, some little bits of money, and yes— the warm fuzzies that come with seeing a kid come to life. I’ll admit it. I’m a sentimental motherfucker when it comes right down to it.
Anyway, Benjamin Punch did me right for a while. For a while our Mr. Punch put out some timely, quality work. But then he got some press. And then he got a LOT of press. And then collectors started lining up for his work.
And they wanted what he had been while he wanted to move along. And that’s when his work went to shit if you ask me.
You know, it’s all well and good for him to insist on giving full reign to what he calls his direction. Following through. FFS. Fine with me if he wasn’t simply cranking out meta-shit — performances and screeds and fucking essays about the work he’s not doing anymore.
Meanwhile, I”ve got all THIS. I’ve got, for instance, Ms. Standard who, I find out, is planning to unload a baker’s dozen of Punch works. And she’s selling them out from under me; working with some fucking consultant outside of my network. What’s more, she’s selling them to a collector I’ve blacklisted!
What does our dear Punch know about all this? Nadda. I tell him none of it. I keep his bankroll growing and send him off to receptions and put his lovely face in the magazines and I tell him nothing about his foundering market. And what do I ask? What do I visit his sacred studio space to beg for? Just what he used to give me: timely, quality work. Product, if you must. Because I happen to believe in art for art’s sake but only if the gallery can afford it.
So, sure, I’ve been showing him some numbers lately. Some auction results which should make his heart sink. Some reviews shrugging, wondering if anyone should care anymore. And now you’ve seen his response. Cute, right? Until I go under and I can’t pay him anymore. Will he truck that mass of confessions and manifestoes to another dealer?
The other day, he says to me — he says, “So, Max, I see you’re making less off me than you’re used to.” Like that. Like I’d never invested a thing. Didn’t give him my time. Didn’t take a chance on him and fund him up front and buy him a goddam car that he promptly lost. Lost, mind you.
If only he knew! How I have to smarten up my tie and walk out of my office and go visit Ms. Standard and convince her to grant me the giant privilege of buying back all his crap in order to save his indulgent, spoiled, clueless ass.
But he’d call it all conniving. Call it price fixing. Call my services dirty names and then go buy a condo in Redhook to throw parties in. He can be his own special PUNCH ’till doomsday in his consistently childish simpleton’s view — while his collectors stop courting me and the press forgets him and Ms. Standard dumps his mid-career work for virtually nothing into the lap of a ruthless speculator who only wants to submit them to auction for a quick turnaround before he’s ranked ‘liquidate’ on ArtStock.
Because he has no idea what one collector unloading one artist can do. He has no idea how narrow and weak the thread is that holds up a career like his— one that is spun from the whims and desires of an increasingly fickle luxury market.
But, hark: my phone is buzzing. Buzzing like a body in an electric chair and sliding across my desktop in an angry seizure.
It’s Claudine Dumas and she’s important enough for me to take her call.
Claudine Dumas, is a collector who’s been buying up mid-career Lewis Boeys. I’m happy as hell that she’s always there when a Boeys comes back into the market, but the poor old girl’s confused about the artist who happens to have transitioned from Lewis to Lola in the past few years. It’s been rough on me; a lot of collectors unloaded, fearing that Lola would not be as good an investment as Lewis was. But, Claudine, who’s around a century old, can’t grasp any of that. She’s a forever Lewis Boeys fan and hasn’t a clue about Lola.
So now she’s in my ear singing “Max-eee-mil-lee-own!
Full text of conversation:
You forgot to have him personalize it!
—Sxhitt! I forgot, Claudine. I forgot. Look—
—No matter, Maxie. I’ll bring it around and have him sign it. He’s such a dear. Won’t he be happy to see his biggest collector come round just to see him?
— But. No. He. I mean She, goddamit. Sorry Claudine: I mean. Look It’s not like she lives here. We’d have to arra—
— She? but Lewis. He’s SUCH a dear!. Won’t he be happy to see his biggest collector come round just to see him?
—Yes. Sure. Uh, Claudine. Look, though: you have to stop calling Lola, “he” okay?
—Lola, Claudine. Lola Boeys.
—Who’s Lola Claudine and what about her boys?
—No! Not Lo— I mean, not Lewis. Lola is not Lewis anymore jus—
—Yes! Yes! Lewis! The dear man! You tell him I say hello! Ask him when I should come around with the piece.
—No. Uh. Ok. Never mind. Look: I’ve got to go out now and I’ll call you back later, okay?
—All righty Maxie. All righteee! Bye now. Bye!
July 11, 2017
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