As some of you dearest Filthy Dreams readers may know, Mattel, this week, released its new updated line of Ken Dolls. Besides looking like they all came straight out of The Cock (dirty boys!), these Kens seemed vaguely familiar. Beholden to ill-fated fashion and hairstyle choices (I mean, a man-bun? Really?), we swear we’ve seen these Kens at gallery dinners, art fairs, openings, museum press previews, and “transgressive” performances in Gowanus art spaces.
Of course, none of these new Kens could come anywhere near the perfection of Cock Ring Ken, I mean, Earring Magic Ken from the 1990s, but they do have a certain dualistic air of pretension and tragedy that just screams art world. Who are all these art world Kens you’ll meet? Well, lucky for you, we broke it down so you can introduce yourself at the next opening reception:
Freelance Chelsea Gallery Art Handler Ken
Freelance Chelsea Gallery Art Handler Ken had his own artistic dreams and still does if you count paying rent on a studio in Bushwick he never makes it out to. He’s hard-working, eats organic and vegan, and secretly resents the successful artists with trust funds who were his classmates at Yale — he hangs their work in the various galleries around Chelsea. His only nod to his former artistic lifestyle is his ever-present man bun, which he sports proudly. He secretly wants his gallery bosses to notice him and leaves cards for his exhibitions in Red Hook in the bathroom, but the gallery owners barely remember his name.
Bushwick Gallerist Ken
Bushwick Gallerist Ken was in Bushwick before it was cool, ok! He was at 56 Bogart waaaaay before it was hip. He’s dressed in the hipster stereotype wardrobe from about 2010 but that’s because he’s a true Bushwick original. Ok, sure, maybe not a true Bushwick original resident since those are primarily Puerto Rican families. But, he still attends anti-gentrification panels around Brooklyn and pretends like he isn’t somehow implicated in that narrative. Tip: he thinks he knows the best tacos in the neighborhood. He also obsessively takes photographs of street art to let you know he’s down and brags that once he put up a sticker. Hardcore.
The art world’s favorite celebrated #wokebae: a beautiful genderqueer sex-positive writer, activist, and occasional model. Wokebae Ken writes for VICE with a consistent social justice lens and also has a piece in Aperture’s “Vision and Justice” issue on Afrofuturism. He is especially outspoken on Twitter and signed Hannah Black’s letter on the Dana Schutz Whitney Biennial controversy. Wokebae Ken is frequently tapped by the major institutions when they suddenly need a POC to do the labor of teaching them and their predominantly white attendees about race on “diversity panels.”
Recently Laid-Off Jeff Koons Assistant Ken
Recently Laid-Off Jeff Koons Assistant Ken, until this week, was Jeff Koons’ faithful assistant, helping make giant ballerinas, balloon dogs and flowers. He, like all of the famed artist’s assistants, bears a striking resemblance to Koons if Koons was a tad less Howdy Doody. He never complained about his position until Koons laid him and his colleagues off, even as he was tasked with cataloguing the entire Made In Heaven series. He didn’t even get a Louis Vuitton x Jeff Koons collaborative key chain as a severance package. He’s currently looking for a job with another big and slightly embarrassing art star. Is Damien Hirst hiring? How about Julian Schnabel?
Art PR Ken
Art PR Ken graduated from NYU double majoring in art history and public relations. He thinks you’d really like this show of Zombie Formalism and messy ceramic pottery in Gowanus. He’s just following-up and circling back on his previous email. Will your write about this art show if I invite you to the after party and send you a checklist?
Thirsty Art Career Ken
Thirsty Art Career Ken is the new summer intern at David Zwirner, but hopes to move up into a permanent position soon by small talking with all the Directors and taking selfies with art world figures at the galas to let them know he’s serious. He graduated recently with a Master’s degree from the Courtauld Institute, where he wrote an honors thesis about the gestural erotics of Cy Twombly. His favorite art fair is Art Basel Miami, though VOLTA is a close second. In fact, he convinced his parents to buy a small print once so he’s basically an art advisor.
Emerging Lower East Side Artist Ken
Emerging Lower East Side Artist Ken is best known for making abstract sculptures about the bodily performance of queer intersectional identity. He’s represented by a newly opened gallery on the Lower East Side the size of a closet that you’ve probably never heard of. He’s wearing that California shirt ironically, by the way, as part of an endurance performance piece for legalizing weed and softening toxic masculinity — it’s PINK, after all! Don’t expect him to be Emerging Lower East Side Artist Ken for long, he’s got his sights set on Team Gallery or Gavin Brown.
Independent Curator Ken
When he isn’t hosting receptions in his apartment gallery, Independent Curator Ken can be seen at all the important art dinners, galas, and art fair vernissages. How does he make a living? No one seems to know, but he manages to Instagram all his publications and himself at every major art event around the world and admits to not sleeping. Last week, he moderated an all-cisgendered woman panel on sexism in the art world, then yelled at the female editor of his upcoming catalogue essay on the historical significance of white feminism. He also just returned from seeing an exhibition on Russian suprematism in a small town in Poland, and he will not shut up about how transgressive it was over brunch. Gallerists love him because he is a male feminist passionate about women’s issues (how RARE!), and because he doesn’t charge honorariums.
Art Model Ken
Art Model Ken is ripped. How do we know? Because he’s been photographed by all the biggest Robert Mapplethorpe wannabe photographers who focused on his cut torso and beautiful form. Sure, just like Mapplethorpe’s awkwardly dehumanizing portraits of Black men, his head wasn’t in the photo most of the time, but his body is recognizable. Art Model Ken started his art modeling career in the early 2000s photographs of Ryan McGinley, cavorting around the Lower East Side. He wouldn’t be caught drinking PBRs now, though. Instead, he prefers posing with champagne at benefit galas for his 75K Instagram followers and is now labeled an “influencer.”
Art Blogger Ken
Art Blogger Ken has the thousand-yard stare of someone glued to the computer all day while trying to rephrase press releases to make his 18 article-a-day quota. His face and hair says generic dude, but his clothes say, “Look at me! I’m edgy and different. I wear red pants and I like to spout my vaguely invalid opinions about art.” Despite making a half a cent a word, Art Blogger Ken knows that his role as a critic is absolutely essential, especially when he can loudly proclaim to support social justice issues by emblazoning buzzwords like “queer art” and “trans issues” in his titles. You’ll find him hovering over the free food and coffee table at museum press previews, while awkwardly sucked into his iPhone. He fervently disagrees with censorship, unless of course the artist said it was ok.
Off-hours Chelsea Gallery Assistant Ken
Of course, Off-hours Chelsea Gallery Assistant Ken wouldn’t be caught dead wearing this in the gallery. Oh no no! He’s clearly decked out for after-work play at Eastern Bloc. Gallery Assistant Ken is one of the favorites of all the gallerists. He does the job AND he works out twice a day. Sure, he’s technically a gallerina, but he’ll never be called that. Of course, he’s not quite as industrious as the women on staff, but that doesn’t matter, he’s Ken! He can do anything!
Art Basel Miami Beach Attendee Ken
Where the hell did this Ken come from? You only see this Ken at Art Basel Miami Beach fixated on the fluorescent artworks (#danflavin #artfie #museumbabes), while trying to act like he’s not desperately trying to clear his nose of stray coke dust. He doesn’t know much about art other than it’s expensive, and learns about it mainly through Artsy, but that’s enough for him. He’ll take it! While vacuous art stars like Jeff Koons are still too pricey for him, he’ll take whatever the next art trend seems to be, mostly because he wants to be invited to the parties. His new favorite artist is Jordan Wolfson because his art makes him think and it looks like Grand Theft Auto. Wait, is that P Diddy on his yacht? ICONIC!
“Political” Artist Ken
“Political” Artist Ken used to make snarky work critiquing the art world until the 2016 election when he found his calling garishly painting Trump. Most of his work can be found in group shows with titles like #Resist. While fervently anti-Trump, he likes to remind people that Hillary wasn’t the perfect candidate and he actually wrote in Bernie Sanders, who he still paints reverentially. A part of the Halt Action Group, organizing #DearIvanka events, including buying Ivanka moving boxes to help her to Washington, he mostly takes selfies and blows air kisses at protests.
Art Provocateur Ken
Art Provocateur Ken will stage controversial exhibitions in art institutions, even if they are extremely problematic and exploitative of sensitive issues, in order to provoke conversation and make news headlines. When his art show draw protests and dissent, he welcomes input but refuses to admit any wrongdoing because his intentions were to elicit raw emotion. He identifies as a Twink for Trump and has support from many alt-right internet trolls, while he relies on Obamacare and welfare to support his dangerous lifestyle.