Art Dealer Aaron Bondaroff Resigns From His LA Gallery Amid Accusations of Inappropriate Sexual Behavior
The Los Angeles dealer co-founded the gallery OHWOW.
Three women have accused the Los Angeles-based art dealer and brand impresario Aaron Bondaroff—also known as “A-Ron the Downtown Don” from his days as a brand ambassador for Supreme streetwear—of sexual misconduct. Through his attorney, Bondaroff said that all encounters have been consensual, but that he is resigning from his gallery “to focus on improving myself and making amends.”
Bondaroff is the co-founder of Moran Bondaroff gallery (formerly OHWOW), which represents prominent artists including Agathe Snow, Lucien Smith, Daniel Arsham, and the estate of Robert Mapplethorpe. The New York Times Magazine described him in 2006 as “one of those individuals who embodies a scene,” and his social circle as the “ideological descendants” of Warhol and his Factory.
The first accusation against Bondaroff was made public on Sunday, when the Canadian singer and model Dana Wright posted a screenshot on Instagram of a text message exchange between the dealer and their mutual friend Jeff Potocar. (Potocar sent the messages to artnet News and we confirmed the number matched Bondaroff’s.)
In the exchange, Potocar accuses Bondaroff of having “violated” two women, including Wright. Bondaroff appears to have been initially confused by the accusation, but then responded: “Dude I’m not happy with my actions—and yes I am trying to get it all right—all I want to do is make amends with the people I hurt.”
In an interview with artnet News, Wright says she met Bondaroff about four years ago in New York when a mutual friend, Lele Saveri, invited her to be a guest on his radio show on Know Wave, a station founded in 2012 by Moran Bondaroff. Wright later looked Bondaroff up when she was in Los Angeles and they met at his gallery, then called OHWOW.
Bondaroff often posts photos on Instagram of friends in his car with the hashtag #cardate. Wright posed for one in his backseat and then moved to the front so he could drive her home, she said. That’s when he allegedly attacked her.
“The whole thing was very violent,” she contended. She was wearing a one-piece bodysuit and claims that he ripped it, shoved his hand down the front, and aggressively groped her. “I tried to grab his arm and he wouldn’t budge. It was rock solid,” she said. He tried to convince her to go back inside the gallery but she refused. He eventually took her home, she said, and when she got out of the car he asked her to promise never to tell anyone what had happened. In exchange, she said, he told her that he’d try to help her professionally.
Saveri told artnet News that Wright called him that night in tears and told him what had happened. He quit Know Wave on air the next day. (Two other friends of Wright also confirmed that she told them the same account at the time.)
A second woman, the DJ and photographer Musa Alves, told artnet News that she met Bondaroff in 2015 while doing a radio show for Know Wave. They began texting soon after and Bondaroff asked to come over one night. Alves agreed, but when he arrived he repeatedly began kissing her against her will, she said. She suggested they go to a restaurant; he countered with the idea to go to a sex shop and buy some BDSM gear. BDSM is a theme in Alves’s artwork, which she frequently posts on Instagram.
“I was like, ‘No, I’m into the aesthetic of it, but I’m not really into that and don’t want to feel pressured to have sex with you because you bought me stuff,'” she said. “He kept trying to force himself on me and I was like, ‘Why don’t we try to go somewhere,’ and he kept saying, ‘Yeah, I’ll buy you stuff [at the sex shop]’. It was a broken record.” Alves said that he eventually left after about an hour. Later, she asked him to do more radio shows, but he did not accept her offers.
“My recollection of these consensual encounters is very different from what these women described,” Bondaroff told artnet News via his lawyer. “There was never a moment where someone told me to stop and I kept going. However, hearing these allegations has given me the opportunity to reexamine my behavior in all my past relationships. I am far from perfect and realize that I was insensitive and inconsiderate at times. That’s unacceptable and something I want to remedy. I recognize that I have sat in a position of privilege in this industry and perceptions are everything. As a result, effective immediately, I am resigning from Moran Bondaroff. I will take this time to focus on improving myself and making amends.”
A third woman, an artist who asked to remain anonymous, told artnet News that Bondaroff misled her into meeting him on professional terms that she claimed quickly became an unwanted sexual encounter. She said that Bondaroff contacted her four years ago via Instagram to set up a visit to see her work. He suggested a restaurant and then, as they were driving, pointed out a motel where he said the late artist Dash Snow used to draw.
“He said, ‘It might be really inspiring to you,’ and I thought in my gut that this was off,” she said, “but I was so naive.”
OHWOW was founded in Miami in 2008 by Bondaroff, Al Moran, and Mills Moran. The gallery changed its name in 2015 as its program matured and it began to solidify its artist roster.
In Wright’s Instagram post, which was directly addressed to Bondaroff, she wrote: “[F]or some reason nobody wants to call you out… Because you’re ‘cool’? Well I don’t give a fuck about whatever hipster skater shit you u get into and I never did. This is a message to you. STOP assaulting women and using your lame ass clout to get away with it.”
Bondaroff is the second art dealer to be accused of assault or misconduct in recent months. In January, the Guardian reported that the prominent British gallerist and philanthropist Anthony d’Offay had been accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by three women with whom he worked. He has denied wrongdoing.
Wright said she has modeled in the past for American Apparel campaigns shot by founder Dov Charney, who has been accused of serial sexual harassment, as well as for photographer Terry Richardson, who is currently under investigation by the New York City Police Department’s sex crimes division. “I’ve worked with Terry Richardson so many times—all these creep men in the industry,” Wright said, “but I’ve never been more scared than I was of A-Ron.”
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