A Con Artist’s Artist: Anna Delvey Teamed Up With a Basquiat Forger to Stage a Show of Her Prison Drawings in New York

Curator Alfredo Martinez, an artist who did time for selling fake Basquiats, connected with Delvey's work.

A drawing by Anna “Delvey” Sorokin. Courtesy of Alfredo Martinez.
A drawing by Anna “Delvey” Sorokin. Courtesy of Alfredo Martinez.

Heiress, entrepreneur, scammer, prisoner—Anna “Delvey” Sorokin has worn many hats in recent years. Now she can add another to her rack: professional artist. 

Tonight, an exhibition of artworks dedicated to the “Soho Scammer” will go on view in a pop-up exhibition on New York’s Lower East Side—and it will include five drawings made by Sorokin herself. 

Both self-portraits and self-parodies, Sorokin’s cartoon sketches find the convict musing on her own persona. One shows her sunning in a prison yard, glammed out in Miu Miu shades and a Tom Ford blouse. Another depicts her using JPay, a payment platform for inmates. She’s sitting in a chair emblazoned with the word “wanted,” a pair of handcuffs dangles from her hand. “Agent Provocateur tops and accessories,” reads a caption. 

“Free Anna Delvey” is the name of the show, which was curated by artists Julia Morrison and Alfredo Martinez. The latter, like Sorokin, has some experience with prison. Two decades ago, he served time for selling forged Basquiat drawings to collectors.

While incarcerated, Martinez turned to art, making sardonic drawings that simultaneously spoke to his situation and the follies of the contemporary art world (one even ended up at MoMA)—a similar approach to Sorokin’s.

When Martinez saw Sorokin’s sketches on her Instagram, he fell for them immediately.

“It caught me right in the feels, someone making sarcastic drawings in prison,” Martinez told Artnet News. 

For months, Martinez tried to get in touch with Sorokin about the work, but had no luck. Finally, he resorted to planting an item declaring his interest in Page Six—and sure enough, that got Anna’s attention. They’ve been communicating on and off ever since. (Sorokin, apparently, is an avid reader of the New York Post, which appears in one of her drawings.)

 

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Martinez said that he’s acted as Sorokin’s assistant in the lead up to the show, which will be on view through March 24 in a nondescript building on Delancey Street. With her permission, he enlarged her pencil-on-paper prison drawings, and in one case, even used watercolors to add some flavor. 

“It’s a con artist turned artist, Alfredo Martinez, helping a fellow con artist make her debut in the art world from prison,” Morrison told the Art Newspaper.

As for the other artworks in the group exhibition, many are portraits of Sorokin. One depicts her as royalty, another as a bunny. Twenty-five percent of sales from the show will go toward Sorokin’s mounting legal fees, Martinez said. (He hadn’t yet decided how to price Sorokin’s own artworks.)

He clearly has an affinity for her—or perhaps an abiding respect. “She doesn’t let the fuckers get her down,” Martinez added.

In all likelihood, Sorokin won’t be able to attend her exhibition debut. Earlier this week, she was released from ICE detention, where she’d spent the better half of the last year, and is now set to be deported to Germany


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