Meet the Young Collectors on Gagosian’s Radar, Vanuatuans React to Inigo Philbrick’s Sentence, and More Juicy Art-World Gossip

Every week, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops. If you have a tip, email Annie Armstrong at [email protected].

A GAGOSIAN PARTY MINTS A NEW GENERATION OF COLLECTORS

Call me crazy, but one of my favorite pastimes is lurking on the BFA page to survey snaps from parties I am not invited to. It’s a neurotic practice that keeps me humble and, occasionally, privy to some interesting intel—like who, exactly, the world’s biggest gallery is looking to cultivate as the next generation of collectors. 

Last Thursday, Gagosian hosted a Frieze Week party at art-world hot spot Chapel Bar (which happens to be where I first clocked its principal out in public with his girlfriend, artist Anna Weyant—but I digress). In attendance were many familiar and expected faces, often with famous last names (see: Serena Marron, daughter of late mega-collector Don Marron), jobs at the gallery (see: strategist Ashley Overbeek), or both (sales associate Lily Mortimer and artist liaison Sophia Cohen).

What interested me, however, were the less pedigreed figures. Who are they, and what do they collect that made them worthy of an invite from team Gago? Perhaps even more loftily, could their interests tell us anything about where the industry is headed? 

I started working the phones.

“It was a fun party, it was good vibes,” Justin Aversano told me. The 29-year-old artist and entrepreneur, who co-founded the public art nonprofit SaveArtSpace and the NFT platform Quantum Art, collects NFTs primarily, but has also been buying photography and street art collection since 2010, including examples by Robert Mapplethorpe and Shepard Fairey. “I want to help that ecosystem grow.” he said. Before hitting the party, he picked up a Clone X Takashi Murakami NFT.  

Justin Aversano. Courtesy of Justin Aversano.

Street art was also the jumping off point for Angela Del Sol Varela, a 31-year-old climate activist and Web3 entrepreneur based in Brooklyn. Varela grew up in Colombia and developed an interest in Latin American art while watching her cousins run Bogotá’s Leon Tovar Gallery

Her collection currently encompasses 31 pieces, including work by Mr. Star City and Saman and Sasan Oskouei. A recent trip to Frieze New York introduced her to a new favorite gallery, David Lewis—she’s now in negotiations to buy Lynn Randolph‘s surreal painting Choreographer (2020) from them. “It’s crazy, because its one of the most expensive pieces I’ll have ever bought, but I think it’s a big investment in the long term,” she said. 

Most of this new class is looking to mix NFTs with traditional IRL art. Among them is one half of the Cock Foster twins—considered the nouveau Winkelvoss twins—who co-founded NFT auction platform Nifty Gateway. (If you can believe it, both sets are identical twins who rowed in college—and the Winkelvii ended up purchasing Nifty Gateway from the Cock Fosters.)

“I have some physical art, but I’d say the vast majority of my collection is NFTs,” Duncan Cock Foster, who also happens to be dating Gagosian’s Overbeek, told Wet Paint. 

He’s been a keen collector of NFTs, having copped a CryptoPunk for a mere $200 in January 2020 and three pieces by Beeple before that fateful Christie’s sale for $400 a pop on the secondary market. 

Is he tempted to sell them? Of course not! 

“Crypto is crashing but I’m totally fine. I don’t need liquidity. I don’t really have a reason to sell,” he said. “A lot of my early crypto-art I’m holding on to, because I think it’s undervalued. The 2020 and 2021 years were totally historic, and people will look back on that as the historic early days of NFTs.” 

Don’t be too afraid for the collecting class’s future, NFT haters—Gagosian has its eye on traditional purists as well. Patrick Finnegan, a 25-year-old investor brought into the fold by Sophia Cohen, has been getting collecting advice from stalwarts Vito Schnabel and Jack Siebert

“For me, art is not about the game,” he said while showing me his collection over FaceTime. “Obviously, it’s good when pieces go up in value, but for me it’s about passion.” 

Finnegan bought his first painting from a charity auction when he was 17 years old, and got serious about collecting about two years ago. Since then, he’s accumulated work by Marcel Dzama, Jordy Kerwick, Spencer Lewis, and Jorge Galindo. He was also gifted a piece by Ed Ruschabut he isn’t not quite sure if the piece is an edition or a work on paper. (“Can you tell?” he asked me through granulated video reception. I couldn’t.) 

What’s on his bucket list? A work by bad painter Robert Nava, who he’s “obsessed” with, and a plan to “get into sculpture.” Finnegan said: “I really want to expand into all arenas of art. I don’t want to limit myself.” 

 

A SUNNY PLACE FOR SHADY PEOPLE 

A post to a private Instagram account in June 2020 shows Inigo Philbrick in zipties being escorted to a Gulfstream jet in Vanuatu.

A post to a private Instagram account in June 2020 shows Inigo Philbrick in zipties being escorted to a Gulfstream jet in Vanuatu.

Six months is a long time. It’s enough time to, say, establish yourself as a regular at a local coffee shop, earn a new nickname, adopt and train a dog, and make an entirely new group of friends. All of this was accomplished by Inigo Philbrick during the six months he spent hiding out from U.S. authorities on the Southern Pacific island of Vanuatu in 2020.

This week, the infamous former art dealer was sentenced to seven years in prison for his $86 million art-fraud scheme. (Since he’s been in jail for two years already and has committed to an intense prison-administered rehab program, the amount of time he’ll actually spend behind bars is probably closer to four years.)

Philbrick must have made quite an impression in Vanuatu, where lived with his fiancée, Made in Chelsea star Victoria Baker-Harber, and where his arrest was front-page news.

“We miss him, Vanuatu misses him. I truly believe that Vanuatu had the real Inigo Philbrick,” Vanuatu resident Karen Adams wrote in a letter to the US District Judge. Urging leniency, she described Philbrick as a kind and generous soul who spent his time caring for stray dogs and employing locals for odd jobs.

“He finds joy in the simplest of things, a beautiful tree, a kaleidoscopic sunset, a cheap but exquisite bottle of Sancerre picked out at our local Chinese takeaway,” she wrote. (Is Sancerre ever really that cheap, though?)

Inigo Philbrick on the island of Vanuatu with one of the dogs he rescued.

Inigo Philbrick on the island of Vanuatu with one of the dogs he rescued.

When Philbrick was on the island, Adams continued, locals in mele village nicknamed him “man mele”—an unusual sign of acceptance by a local population that is “very mistrusting of visitors.”

Not every Vanuatan was as keen on Philbrick, however. The island has a reputation as a tax haven, and has earned the nickname “a sunny place for shady people”—much to the chagrin of many locals. One resident told my colleague Eileen Kinsella that the “general feeling is that no matter the remorse, not only do we not believe it but he’s again helped label Vanuatu as a haven for fraudsters, which is an image incredibly difficult to erase.”

The person continued: “So whilst he’s remorseful, the country will bear the burden of a tarnished image. But a sentence is better than nothing and better than him still hiding there. Good riddance.”

 

WE HEAR… 

When asked whose ass was the inspiration for a drawing hanging above Travis Barker’s couch in a recent Architectural Digest home tour, artist Raymond Pettibon tweeted that he had in mind “most anyone or an optical illusion thereof, but I was thinking of a KardashianLos Angeles-based gallery Sebastian Gladstone is expanding to Hollywood, beginning with a group show of work by Timo Fahler, Cynthia Talmadge, and Alison Peery, among others … Artist Natalie Frank, formerly represented by Salon 94, has been in talks with a blue-chip gallery and a few downtown spots for potential representation … Turns out Inigo Philbrick’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, also represented Sarma Melngailis, a.k.a the “Bad Vegan” fraudster of Pure Food and Wine … A leak at Paula Cooper has left some visitors wondering whether a puddle is art or not … the Russ & Daughters location at the Jewish Museum will tragically not be re-opening …

 

SPOTTED 

The scene at O’Flaherty’s after party.

*** Maurizio Cattelan, Larry Gagosian, Jill Stuart, Brad Troemel, Simon Fujiwara, Jeffrey Deitch, and Jordan Wolfson at the opening for O’Flaherty’s new show by collective Bobo, which of course, had an excellent afterparty at Nublu *** Soph Vanderbilt, Demna Gvasalia, Chris Pecaro, and Alyssa Davis at the party for art-adjacent modeling agency No Agency, where admission required a hat bearing their logo, an idea Wet Paint might steal one day *** Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Sherald, Agnes Gund, and Chelsea Clinton at the Gordon Parks Foundation’s annual gala, which honored Laurene Powell Jobs, Mark Bradford, Spike Lee, and Darren Walker *** Mel Chin breaking into heartfelt song over acoustic guitar at Brooklyn hotspot Rule of Thirds during Triple Canopy’s annual benefit *** Following Balenciaga‘s very buzzed-about show at the New York Stock Exchange, none other than Libbie Mugrabi was seen in Miami cutting up a dress by the fashion house and pairing it with one of her own “Divorcée Glam” hats, a choice of which I’m sure Demna would approve *** Kendrick Lamar’s new music video for “N95” was shot at Fort Worth’s Kimbell Art Museum and the Philip Johnson-designed Fort Worth Water Gardens ***

 

WET PAINT QUESTIONNAIRE

Working in art is more physical than one would think! I’m sure everyone’s got sore arms after raising paddles at last week’s auctions or a tweaked back from moving heavy canvasses at The Shed. It’s hard work! Luckily, it sounds like you lot train for it, as last week’s question—”Who is the art world’s most athletic dealer?”—got myriad responses. Lauren Marinaro suggested Ryan Wallace from Halsey McKay Gallery, who apparently “just did a 130-mile bike race and ran the Brooklyn Half within weeks of each other and is an avid Cross-Fitter.” Grace Hong of Galerie LeLong & Co. wrote in that Mary Sabbatino “loves ice skating and during the winter skis cross country across Prospect Park.” Go Mary! According to advisor Jay Grimm, dealer Adam Baumgold is “known as ‘Ace’ due to his prowess on the tennis court.”

My next question for you: Which museum has the best bathroom for mirror selfies? 

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