The Gagosian Gallery are the Shock Establishment on Manhattan. Maurice Oldman is the Shock Underground. I watch him working hard late at night in his gallery when I'm coming into the hotel or going out. Tonight I tap on his window, he waves, and lets me in. He is in exactly the state that a good art dealer should be in, a mixture of commercial delight and professional outrage.
He has a sensation on his hands in the form of this performance artist kind of boy called Nathan Solid who has just graduated from a minor art college, is currently in Berlin helping make a movie for a painter. Solid was the biggest sensation at the New York Art Fair, which shut three days before I arrived in town. Several times Maurice has enthused to me about this kid, and now he has the time to show me the famous video.
Nathan Solid made this high-ticket limited edition video of himself. The video begins close up of the boy's face. He looks more or less like what he is; the scholarly son of an art professor from Florida and his lovely wife, a prominent Republican monster. He has a nice face so looking at him is not difficult. The camera is slowly pulling back as you notice that this face twitches occasionally, once surrendering itself up a reluctant smile.
Well, this goes on for five minutes, the camera keeps on pulling back ever so slowly and Solid grows more and more restless. I don't blame him. It emerges that he is naked. His shoulder and pectoral muscles are clenching and unclenching pretty rhythmically at this stage. Then the camera pulls back that bit more and you see that he is being taken from behind, and is bending over a small pine table. You never see his assailant, but the two of them seem to come at the same time.
Maurice is a great salesman and I love listening to him, on the phone, selling the video, of which there are now only thirteen copies left available, to rich folks who call him every day wanting to purchase it. Depending on whom he's talking to, he describes what's going on either discreetly or lavaciously. Always, though, he gives the impression that he thinks this is the horniest thing he has even seen, though I doubt if that's the case.
I'm wise to the ways of the art world but I don't want to seem too hick so I don't ask him how come you can get away with charging four figures for a VHS cassette that anybody can copy in the comfort of their own editing suite.
This evening Maurice is pretty annoyed. He tells me that the Gagosian Gallery have this whole unacknowledged intelligence unit made up of rich bitches, smart Jews, and smart fags whose job it is to keep an eye of the Shock Underground, with a view to buying off or soaking up anything which might make them a few bucks. Now the intelligence unit is hot on the trail of Nathan Solid who is due back from Berlin at the weekend, and with whom Maurice only has a gentleman's agreement.
The Gagosian people call him while I'm in the room. They're not even sure of the artist's name. Maurice, while talking with them, is busy taking the Solid page off of his website.
The jungle stinks. So what is new???
Joe Ambrose has written 14 books, including Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. Joe is currently working on his next book, Look at Us Now - The Life and Death of Muammar Ghadaffi, which is an expanded version of a story first published in the anthology CUT UP! Visit Joe's website for all the latest info: JoeAmbrose.co.uk.