How Equinox Works as an Unofficial Art Marketplace, Revealing Details From the Rybolovlev Case, and More Juicy Art World Gossip

Plus, are Drake and James Turrell ready to collaborate once more? Which Henry Street gallery is graduating to Chelsea?

An Equinox branch in New York. Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

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].


I’ve heard it for a while now but only experienced it firsthand this week—did you know that the dream of the Hellenistic period is alive and thriving in New York City? The ancient Greek tradition of discussing art, industry, and philosophy in a bathhouse lives on among the gallerists of the Lower East Side. The only cost of admission is a $300/month access pass to Equinox

“It’s our LES country club,” Lauryn-Ashley Vandyke, director at the buzzy gallery Amanita told me. Vandyke was kind enough to invite me to the Equinox gym on Orchard Street on a recent afternoon, given that a writer’s salary doesn’t exactly cover those fees. While she walked me over to the locker room, she warned, “You have to be really careful what you say in the locker room or in the steam room, you never know who’s in there.” 

Indeed, it took me approximately ten seconds to start easily collecting gossip that I’d otherwise pound the pavement to land. On the barbells I clocked Lounes Mazouz, owner of the art world restaurant hotspot Ella Funt.

“Here’s something for your column,” he said while I dialed into a machine. “We’re finishing out the basement and calling it Club 82!” (For the uninitiated to Ella Funt, their unfinished basement has hosted some of the better gallery parties I’ve been to this year by galleries like O’Flaherty’s and Lomex, in an unofficial capacity). “Is it still going to look like Berlin down there?” I asked. “No way. More like Baghdad.” 

Around me, my “Spotted” senses began to tingle. Across the way from where VanDyke and I did some floor exercises was artist/scenester Manon Macaset. As I went around the gym, rumors swirled—I heard that Vito Schnabel may be taking over representation of Bill Jensen! I heard chatter about Anna Weyant‘s appearance on Eileen Kelly‘s podcast! And I heard a lot of other things that aren’t yet fit-to-print in this column! 

I figured this would happen. Entrance‘s owner Louis Shannon regaled me with a story about doing shoulder pull-downs, then looking at the machine next to him to find LES stalwart James Fuentes doing the exact same set.

“That was great; he’s my barometer for a great gallerist. So I thought ‘I guess this means I’m on the right track!'” explained Shannon, who uses a good workout at Equinox to get into the sales mindset. “In the state of high adrenaline, I don’t know if a deal is necessarily going to be closed, but you’re definitely going to set the stage,” he laughed. “But I’ve seen Ellie [Rines] on the treadmill closing a deal. She’s always closing, because she’s the best.”

Another dealer who uses Equinox as a quasi-office is K.O. Nnamdie, director at Anonymous Gallery. “I have definitely made a deal at Equinox, for sure,” he confessed. “But it was at the Wall Street location.” Nnamdie said he overheard a couple of VC bros discussing their desire to get their feet wet in art collecting. He introduced himself, and “one of them asked me what I did, so I said I sold luxury goods! Later, I happened to see them on the floor again and one bought a sculpture.” If you’re working on commission, I’d think that makes the hefty monthly fee well worth it (and tax deductible?).

After my day pass at the gym had expired, I wondered if an Equinox membership is kind of like the 2020’s version of the old practice of picking up smoking just so you can be part of the corporate jawing that goes along with it. My time here at least proved the old gym-goers’ mantra true: It doesn’t get easier, you just go further.


A fox (likely not Armenian) in the wild. Photo by Caroline Goldstein.

For those who are not at the gym working on their New Year’s resolutions, most eyes are on the art world’s equivalent of the O.J. trial, in which Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev is doggedly pursuing Sotheby’s for what he (via his holding companies) says is the role they played in an alleged multi-million dollar fraud in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

I haven’t been to the courtroom, but my fearless colleague Eileen Kinsella has, and according to her, the droning technical details in a flood of related emails—what pricey artworks were presented to Rybolovlev when and in which country by his Swiss agent Yves Bouvier and other facets of numerous deals—has resulted in at least a few hilarious details, which she generously shared with me.

Before I share them, though, I’d like to just point out that the art world has a serious fetish for Mr. Larry Gagosian. I could give you a list of examples, but if you’re in deep enough to be reading this column, you already know that his celebrity status as the man who “makes the art world go-go” is upheld by a grassroots campaign due to how much fun it is to gossip about him. Everyone wins.

Take, for instance, the second day of the Rybolovlev trial. His attorney’s presented an email sent by Bouvier to Rybolovlev’s main art representative, Mikhail Sazonov, about mega-dealer Larry Gagosian and a major Mark Rothko painting that might be in play at some point. In the text, Bouvier seems to be suggesting “Mike” avoid doing business with the mega-dealer, but not without revealing a clear reverence—or the revelation of a serious man-crush—for Larry.

“I can hardly believe that an ‘Armenian fox’ like Gagosian,” could sell a more beautiful painting for less, he said in the email. Bouvier continued: “Unless I am mistaken, the Rothko entrusted to Gagosian belongs to Leon Black.” Asked if Rybolovlev ultimately purchased the work, Sazonov, who was on the witness stand, replied: “No we didn’t.”

At press time, only one foxy art dealer really knows where the Rothko actually went. And I’d venture to say that’s exactly how the art world likes it.



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Apparently pop star and known art collector Dua Lipa is a pretty rabid Patrick Radden-Keefe fan… Katejiline De Backer, former Armory Show director, has joined Antwerp’s KMSKA Royal Museum of Fine Arts as their new head of programming… Anat Ebgi has picked up representation of painter Jenny Morgan… Rejoice! The Upper West Side church that houses Matt Dillon’s painting studio is no longer scheduled to be demolished!…  Henry Street stronghold Situations is betting big on a second location in Chelsea in collaboration with New Discretions… The reviews are in (or at least Matthew Higgs’s is), the new café at the Whitney is a hit…


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Is it time for Drake to bling James Turrell’s hotline once more? Looks like it! *** The opening for Nate Freeman and Benjamin Godsill’s “Friends of the Pod” opening at Broadway Gallery was quite the whose-who (Max Hollein! Noah Horowitz! Olivier Babin! So many others!), but my juicier spotting was that they mentioned Jonas Wood twice on their press release—don’t worry guys, we see it! *** David Zwirner announced their new “Dialogues” programming, and I nearly broke my hand penciling R. Crumb’s “Radio Music Hour” into my planner this March *** 


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