U.S. Authorities Have Indicted a Superblue Sales Director as an Alleged Conspirator of Disgraced Art Dealer Inigo Philbrick

Just weeks before Inigo Phibrick is set to appear in court for sentencing, a new indictment has been made in the art fraud case.

Inigo Philbrick. © Patrick McMullan. Photo by Liam McMullan / PMC

Inigo Philbrick, once one of the world’s most well-connected art dealers, is currently awaiting sentencing in a Brooklyn jail. The disgraced wunderkind, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud in November, will turn over some $86.7 million as well as blue-chip paintings said to be linked to his fraudulent activity. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Now, authorities have revealed a new development in the case: they claim he did not act alone. The office of U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss recently unsealed an indictment against the U.K.-based art dealer Robert Newland. The dealer, who currently works as sales director for the experiential-art company Superblue, has been charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in order to finance a co-conspirator’s art business. 

Authorities have demanded he surrender any alleged ill-gotten assets that could be traced to his apparent dealings with Philbrick.

Newland initially appeared on Philbrick’s criminal docket in July 2020—shortly after the dealer’s arrest on the island of Vanuatu—as “sealed defendant 1.” His identity was unsealed last week. His name also appears in emails associated with at least one multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit against Philbrick.

The U.S. Attorney’s office did not respond to Artnet News’s request for comment, nor did Newland or his attorneys.

A representative for Pace Gallery, whose CEO co-founded Superblue, said Newland is currently on a temporary leave of absence. “Robert Newland joined Superblue following an extensive background check, which affirmed he was not involved in Philbrick’s illegal activity,” the representative told Artnet News. “He has been an exemplary employee throughout his tenure at Superblue.” By Tuesday afternoon, Newland’s page had been scrubbed from the company’s website.

Image via Superblue.com

A now-deleted screenshot of Newland’s staff page on Superblue’s website.

The indictment claims Newland’s alleged illicit activity ran from “in or about 2016 up to and including in or about November 2019.” It accuses him of “willfully and knowingly having devised and intending to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud and for obtaining money and property by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises.” 

Sources told Artnet News that Philbrick and Newland first met at White Cube Gallery in London, where power dealer Jay Jopling helped jumpstart Philbrick’s career. (Jopling was so impressed with Philbrick’s acumen that he backed the young dealer’s secondary market business, Modern Collections.) Newland worked in the gallery’s finance department before taking a job at McKinsey & Company. The U.K. register Companies House also lists him as a director of Philbrick’s company Modern Collections from 2014 until he resigned in December 2016. 

Later, Newland worked for Hauser and Wirth for roughly two years, sources say, but was terminated in late 2019, a few months after allegations against Philbrick surfaced.

While working at Hauser and Wirth, Newland’s name also appeared in correspondence with Fine Art Partners (FAP), a German company that did business with Philbrick. Under a domain address for “Arcor Advisory,” Newland served as a go-between with FAP’s principals, who were becoming increasingly angry that Philbrick had not yet paid them. (FAP ultimately filed a lawsuit seeking the return of some $14 million in art and cash.) The company did not respond to Artnet News’s request for comment.

In an April 2019 email to FAP partner Daniel Tümpel, Newland wrote: “Good that we have a dialogue going and that you’ve spoken your mind through to Inigo.” 

Philbrick also references Newland in correspondence with Tümpel, noting in March 2019: “Robert called me yesterday and relayed both the substance and the ‘feel’ of the call that the three of you had…. Robert’s takeaway summary to me was this: That you felt frustrated on multiple counts, some more grating than others and that you wanted more progress on the deals we’re currently midway through.”

It is unclear whether Newland knew about Philbrick’s schemes, which included forging documents attesting to a guarantee he said he secured on a Rudolf Stingel painting he co-owned with FAP and reselling more than 100 percent of the painting without telling FAP.

“Newland was an integral part of Philbrick’s criminal scheme, and our clients are pleased to see him brought to justice as well,” said Judd Grossman, an attorney who is representing several investors who lost money in their dealings with Philbrick.

May 2020 GQ report about the Philbrick scandal named Newland as an advisor on the dealer’s increasingly byzantine deals. The GQ story made no suggestion of wrongdoing on his part.  

After trying unsuccessfully to locate Philbrick in late 2019, the GQ writer Oliver Franklin-Wallis attempted to track down Newland in London. “I also went to the address of Rob Newland, Philbrick’s former White Cube colleague-turned-advisor,” he wrote. “A neighbor said they hadn’t seen him in a while.”

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