Disgraced Art Dealer Inigo Philbrick Is Out of Prison—and Planning a Comeback

'I'd like to get re-established as an art dealer," he says in a splashy new magazine feature.

Inigo Philbrick. Photo by Clint Spaulding, ©Patrick McMullan.

The disgraced art dealer Inigo Philbrick is out of federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, after serving less than four years of a seven-year sentence for a massive art fraud estimated to have cost his victims $86 million.

Prosecutors accused Philbrick of committing “one of the most significant frauds in the art market in history.” He pleaded guilty to wire fraud in November 2021 was sentenced to prison in May 2022.

Philbrick, who was released last month, had been in custody since June of 2020, when he was captured on the remote South Pacific island of Vanuatu, where he fled in late 2019 as lawsuits, fraud claims, and international asset-seizure orders began piling up. When he fled—he later said he believed the claims against him were all civil matters—he left behind shuttered spaces in Miami and London. As part of his sentence, he has to pay restitution to his victims of $86 million.

Philbrick was sent to a halfway house in Providence, Rhode Island, in January—as Artnet News columnist Kenny Schachter, who once a friend of the dealer, reported. He and his partner, Victoria Baker-Harber, have wasted no time celebrating his release, offering their own version of events.

Philbrick’s first post-prison photo, in an expansive feature in Vanity Fair has him sporting a gray collared sweater and standing against a wood-barn backdrop, looking more like a GQ model than someone fresh from a penitentiary. Baker-Harber also posted a photo to her Instagram showing the two of them with their three-year-old daughter outdoors on a blanket with the caption: “A long stretch but here we are!”

In the Vanity Fair story, by writer Mark Seal, Philbrick says at one point, “The art world is unregulated.”

The fallen dealer relied on that opacity to build his business, creating fake identities, selling the same shares in artworks to multiple investors, borrowing against artworks he didn’t own, and using multiple offshore-shell companies to move around funds.

What was prison like for the formerly high-flying dealer? He was “struck by how few of the people I’ve interacted with since entering the Bureau of Prisons have even a conception of what an art dealer does,” he told Vanity Fair.

Philbrick also told the magazine that, as a young man, “I wanted to be a lawyer, but I was soon fascinated by the commerce of the gallery world.” He has admitted to a drug habit and excessive drinking beginning in high school; his attorneys claimed that it’s “how art deals are done,” according to the report.

“I always drank too much, but would always stagger away with a couple of deals done,” Philbrick told Vanity Fair, and added, “I spent money on clothes, but there’s no unshod art dealer, and private planes were a great setting for closing deals.”

Alas, the story sheds little new light on why Philbrick did what he did.

Image via Superblue.com

A now-deleted screenshot of Robert Newland’s staff page via Superblue.com

Only one other person has been charged in the case, Philbrick’s former partner Robert Newland, who was sentenced to 20 months in prison last September.

Baker-Harber did not immediately respond to questions from Artnet about Philbrick’s release. However, at the time of Newland’s sentencing in the fall, she said: “I’m happy to see that others are being held accountable for their role in Inigo’s downfall. Without Rob, Inigo would never have had a loan pool structured through Jersey, or a relationship with Fine Art Partners—all these complex financial structures that proved to be so destructive, have Rob’s fingerprints. But there are others who should also be held accountable. There are major people who are complicit and have evaded any consequences so far, aided by Inigo keeping his silence. These others that come to mind must now be very nervous.”

What’s next for Philbrick? “I’d like to get reestablished as an art dealer,” he told Vanity Fair.

Schachter, who at times bought art with Philbrick, and who has said he lost $1.75 million in the fraud, told me today: “He’s still smart and the art world has a short memory. But I’m certainly done.”

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