Istvan Kantor Defends Unwanted Collaboration With Nelson Saiers’ Art, Calls The Hole Gallery Staff ‘Yuppies’

June 12, 2015 | Bucky Turco

Art world disrupter Istvan Kantor has once again found himself in the custody of the NYPD for writing the Neoist nom de guerre “Monty Cantsin” at an exhibition that was not his own. As ANIMAL previously reported, on Tuesday evening, Kantor tagged a mattress that was part of an installation at The Hole Shop by former Wall Streeter and polymath artist Nelson Saiers. Soon after he was put in cuffs and arrested.

But he’s out now, and he’s sharing his side of the story. “Calling the police was obviously the wrong response from [Saiers’] part, missing the point completely,” said Kantor to ANIMAL. “The gallery’s curator and the gallery itself reacted in a really old-fashioned way that is completely a yuppie character.”

The creative instigator says that for The Hole Gallery, it’s all about the Benjamins. “The fact that I made that mark on that piece has triggered a strong reaction from people who don’t necessarily understand certain ironic and critical aspects of today’s artistic gestures, but only see the work as a profit-making business that is part of the rules and authority of the institutionalized art world,” said Kantor. (Perhaps keeping profits — or at least attention — in mind, explains why The Hole advertised the infamous vandals’ work, highlighting it over Saiers’ own in a press release).

The artist insists that he didn’t do it to disrespect Saiers and says he thought it was fair game. “It looked like an interactive piece that was asking for signatures, so I signed it ‘Monty Cantsin.’ I always have a black marker on me so it wasn’t very difficult task, it took a few seconds and it was done,” said Kantor.

He notes that it’s not like he was writing his own name. “What’s the most important here is Monty Cantsin is not me, it’s an open pop star name used by a large number of people, it is not signifying one individual, but a network of individuals working in the name of Monty Cantsin and sharing the name. I started the Monty Cantsin project with correspondence artist David Zack in the late ‘70s and it developed into an international network.”

Kantor, who has been provoking the art world since the late 1970s, also genuinely believes that his signature is good for the art. “It was a ready made mattress, probably found in the street and used for art, something I really like, and I didn’t think that I was fucking it up by my signature, but I rather completed the work.”

Ultimately, though, it’s not Saiers who will have to buy into Kantor’s defense, but a judge. “I have to go to court on July 14th,” he said.

(Photo: Aymann Ismail)