Wet Paint: Art World’s Favorite Restaurant Shut Amid Vermin Infestation, Jerry Saltz Dragged On Instagram, & More Juicy Art-World Gossip

What supermodel was seen walking around Independent? Which artist is mad at MoMA for a botched install? Read on for answers.

The outside of Bottino. Photo courtesy Pinterest.

Every Thursday afternoon, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops reported and written by Nate Freeman. If you have a tip, email Nate at [email protected].


There are many legendary art haunts in New York, but none loom larger than Bottino, the Italian restaurant that’s been feeding Chelsea’s art stars for more than 20 years. It is, and has been called many times, the “Cheers of the art world,” perennially packed with wine-drunk power lunchers during the day and the martini-swilling collecterati by night. It is so frequently chosen as a post-opening dinner spot that it’s become almost a tired cliché. “If your gallery dinner is at Bottino your dealer secretly hates you and is trying to figure out how to drop you from the program,” one insider wrote on Twitter late last year. But even if it’s a little tired, it’s still a standby for pre-opening drinks and snacks, and its place in the gallery-verse firmament is secure—not only was Matthew Marks an angel investor, the space was discovered by Barbara Gladstone. It was previously a hardware store run by Irish gun-runners to the IRA.

The sign at Bottino. Photo courtesy source.

The sign at Bottino. Photo courtesy source.

And so, in the midst of perhaps the busiest art week in New York City, gallery-hoppers strolling Tenth Avenue were stunned to see the doors shut on Wednesday—the opening day of the Armory Show. “NOTICE:” read a sign affixed to the door. “Closed by order of the commissioner of health and mental hygiene.” On Thursday, a source within the health department told Wet Paint that there was “sufficient evidence of vermin present to warrant classification as an infestation.” And as word spread about the closure, several dealers said they stopped making Bottino their go-to lunch option after several had problems with food poisoning. This could be an ignoble end to the restaurant, which just resigned its lease last year—even a brief closure is often enough to cripple a restaurant into closing for good. Calls to the restaurant Thursday during peak lunch hours were not answered, messages were not returned, and the owner, Danny Emerman, did not respond to an inquiry.


Jerry Saltz, the New York magazine art critic, has gained notoriety and fame due to his surprise Pulitzer Prize win, his role on Bravo’s Work Of Art, and his social media following—he’s got 392,000 followers on Instagram and 519,000 on Twitter. But he’s also made some enemies over the years, tangling with the critic brigade on Twitter and getting himself booted from Facebook in 2010 for posting offensive images. In 2018, he apologized for posting an image implying that Sean Hannity and Donald Trump were engaging in intercourse after some found it homophobic. And now he seems to have riled up a few more. After an artist posted on Instagram a picture of Saltz in a gallery in front of a painting of a penis with the tag “two dicks,” followers responded with tales of Saltz, which the artist promptly added to his feed. One said “Can confirm, said he’d ‘write me a letter of recommendation’ if I let him into the Deutsche Bank wealth management lounge at Frieze.” Another said this: “ya I’m sure u have stories lolz i unfollowed years ago when he DM’d me starting w ‘hey doll’ re: the woman’s march.” Saltz declined to comment.

Heilde Lynn Helphenstein. Photo courtesy HILDE.


Once a tightly held secret, it’s been pretty common knowledge since June that the person behind the astoundingly popular art-meme account @JerryGogosian is Hilde Lynn Helphenstein, the Los Angeles art dealer who ran the now-closed HILDE gallery in South Los Angeles. Over the summer, she was outed by the muckraking Instagram account @itstimetostopnow, and Artnet’s Kenny Schachter disclosed last week that she was trying to get him to put work by Steve Hash (an artist perhaps better known as Ally Hilfiger’s husband) in his booth at the Felix Art Fair at the Hollywood Roosevelt in LA. And now, Helphenstein is shedding the mask completely as she makes a grand debut on the New York circuit during Armory Week. She’s been spotted throughout the fairs and openings, and Thursday, she’s hosting a soiree at swank macaron house Ladurée in Soho, making her mark on the scene. Finally, the people have the chance to meet the woman behind the meme.

Desus Nice, The Kid Mero. Photo courtesy: BFA/Mike Vitalli


Anyone who’s been to an art-world gala knows that they can be pretty dry affairs. It’s hard to get good catered food, you’re seated next to a total snooze, and worst of all, the speeches go on forever. Do we really need someone to introduce the introducers? How long is this video montage gonna be? And so on. And that’s why it was so refreshing that the Bronx Museum 2020 Visionary Duos Gala kicked off with a decidedly bumping DJ set in which Daddy Yankee’s Donde Mi No Vengas blasted through the grand ballroom at Capitale. Master of Ceremonies Larry Ossei-Mensah asked that everyone “Drink. A lot.” Even the speeches were pretty great, especially when Bronx Borough president Rubén Díaz Jr spit a few bars off the dome. Let’s see Bill de Blasio do that! And then, Desus and Mero, stars of their Showtime talk show, got up to talk about how going to the Bronx Museum as kids helped inspire them to be the wacko-genius comedians they are today. As the Bodega Boys would say it: That same energy.


Congratulations to last week’s Pop Quiz winner: art advisor Meredith Darrow, the founder and owner of Darrow Contemporary! She successfully identified the work pictured as Willem de Kooning’s Standing Figure, as seen on the lawn of collector Maja Hoffmann’s home in Zurich, which was designed by Marcel Breuer. Pop Quiz will return next week.


Bob Gober was “not thrilled” at MoMA after a picture was sent to him showing his iconic Untitled Leg (1989–90) disconnected from the wall—though it has now been fixed … Andy Hall acquired Tracey Emin’s giant sculpture I lay here for you (2018) and is installing it in Schloss Derneburg, the castle in Germany he bought from Georg Baselitz … Jeff Koons made a very unexpected cameo as a face in the crowd during “Well Groomed,” the HBO documentary about the world’s biggest dog-grooming festival that takes place in Hershey, PennsylvaniaShepherd Fairey endorsed Pete Buttigieg—the day before he dropped out of the presidential race …

Derek Blasberg in a Blasberg shirt. Photo courtesy Instagram.


Bella Hadid at Independent, checking out works by Nick Doyle at the Reyes Finn booth, all of which sold for $10,000 to $18,000 *** The banana man himself Maurizio Cattelan at Independent rocking a shirt that just says “GERMS” *** Gagosian senior staffer Derek Blasberg rocking a shirt reading “Blasberg 2018” in the Bernie Sanders font *** Sterling Ruby studio manager Tyler Britt being fêted on his Leap Day birthday at Monkey Bar *** artists Jamian Juliano-Villani, Borna Sammak, Sam McKinniss, and Korakrit Arunanondchai at Honeys in Bushwick to celebrate Sebastian Black’s opening at Clearing and Liu Susiraja’s opening at Ramiken at a party hosted by Clearing’s Olivier Babin and Ramiken’s Mike Egan ***


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