Wet Paint: Kushner Brother Angles to Become a Mega-Collector, Ai Weiwei Sows Misinformation on Biden Win, & More Art-World Gossip
What collector was spotted wearing a MAGA mask at the White House? Which artist did Emrata accuse of being a copycat? Read on for answers.
Every week, 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].
A TALE OF TWO KUSHNERS
At this point, we know about the art collection of Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump. Before the couple moved to Washington, DC, to work for President Trump, they enjoyed a cozy relationship with the high priests of the Manhattan art-dealing church and built up a buzzy collection—only to see the artists they supported disown the works they hung on their walls. Now, it’s acknowledged that, after four years in Washington pushing the president’s agenda, Jared and Ivanka will be coldly received by all but the most craven of their former art-world enablers, even if they want so dearly to be let back in.
But Jared’s brother Josh Kushner probably won’t have the same pushback—and he’s going after the power brokers pretty aggressively. Wet Paint has been told by multiple sources that the younger Kushner brother, a co-founder of VC firm Thrive Capital said to be worth north of $800 million, has retained the services of global hotshot art advisor Sandy Heller as he takes a crack at becoming one of New York’s ascendant mega-collectors.
Why the lack of nose-pinching for Kushner the younger? Unlike his brother, Josh still supports the liberal causes that once drove the Javanka checkbooks. Little Kushner has admitted to voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and been public about his social activism. His wife, the supermodel Karlie Kloss, is also very much a Democrat, and wore a Biden/Harris 2020 mask to the polls a few weeks ago.
But family is family, and Josh maintains close ties to a brother who will forever be associated with, among other Trump-era initiatives, leading a catastrophically flawed response to a pandemic that left hundreds of thousands of Americans dead while also tanking the economy. A Forbes cover story from 2017 stated that Josh’s left-leaning mien hasn’t shielded him from the Trumpian gravitational pull. In January 2017, post-inauguration, Josh posted a now-deleted picture of him and his brother at the White House, standing in front of a portrait of John F. Kennedy.
For what it’s worth, Josh Kushner’s new advisor had already been working with a number collectors with ties to Trump. Perhaps Heller’s biggest client is Steven A. Cohen, the hedge-fund billionaire who recently mustered hosannas from New Yorkers by purchasing the Mets and promising a pennant win within a few years. We’re all for the Mets going to the World Series, but let’s not forget Cohen gave $1 million to fund Trump’s inaugural committee in 2016 (and after the donation, Trump fired US Attorney Preet Bharara, the Stevie bête noire who spearheaded the insider trading investigation that forced Cohen’s SAC Capital to cough up $1.8 billion in fees).
Other Heller clients include Dmitry Rybolovlev, who turned heads when he purchased Trump’s Palm Beach mansion for a $54 million markup after it spent years languishing on the market. (Rybolovlev also dragged Heller into the Yves Bouvier saga and, as a result, the Salvator Mundi saga.) Heller also advises Dasha Zhukova, the ex-wife of Putin-aligned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and a longtime friend of the Kushner-Trumps.
For his part, Josh Kushner is not new to collecting. He’s spent years on the board of Artsy and has frequently snapped Instagram pics at pilgrimage-worthy cultural meccas such as the Chinati Foundation in Marfa and James Turrell‘s Roden Crater. He’s just taking aim at a higher echelon of picture-buying by hiring Heller. The only work that’s known to be in his collection is a John McCracken painting that hangs above his office’s not-quite-resolute desk in the Puck Building.
Neither Kushner nor Heller responded to emails requesting comment. Sources say there’s no indication that Heller has any interest in working with Josh Kushner’s exceedingly more socially toxic older brother when he and his wife attempt to return to New York after leaving the White House in January.
AI WEIWEI PEDDLES ELECTION CONSPIRACY
The Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei is beloved by his more than 375,000 followers on Instagram, where he posts meditations on art, society, and the plight of refugees. So it was a little surprising when Ai shared a clip of Fox News anchor Jesse Watters spewing conspiracy theories about the results of the 2020 presidential election, falsely stating that Trump could still win despite the fact that every major network—including Fox—has named Joseph R. Biden, Jr. the president-elect.
“Four days later his lead gets flipped in notoriously dirty Democrat precincts like Philly and Detroit?” Watters said in the clip, misleading viewers about how how the mail-in ballots were counted. “I just have a gut feeling something went down,” Watters finishes, without presenting any evidence.
For some reason, Ai found the clip legit enough to tweet—and over the next few days, one of the most famous living artists on the planet repeatedly questioned Biden’s victory, engaging in sometimes-playful, sometimes-charged banter with those who responded.
Ai asked for the baseless allegations casting doubt upon the election results to be investigated (“the right to doubt is the only way leading to a Fair play ,.is that so difficult for you guys to see it?or you are blind”) and stated that calling the election for Biden was akin to an act taken by authoritarians in Beijing (“‘Case closed,’sounds like Chinese regime”). He also favorably compared Trump’s “coup” to the anti-China efforts of dissidents like himself.
Sometimes, Ai would respond with smily-laughing emojis, indicating that… maybe he’s just stirring the pot? His gallery, Lisson, did not respond to a request for comment, and Ai did not respond to a direct message on Twitter. Perhaps this tweet best sums up his entire approach to the matter: “put the branches in the fire, seeing the flames. Enjoy it burns.”
A great number of you guessed that last week’s screenshot was from the new Upper East Side-based HBO drama The Undoing, and spotted Nicole Kidman walking past a work by Sarah Morris. Congrats to the eagle-eyed readers!
Here are the winners: Galerie Lelong & Co. communications rep Grace Hong; Sarah Morris studio manager Diana Stephen (still counts! Sarah, you could have won, too!); Simon C. Dickinson Ltd. senior sales director Julie Stelzer; the New York-based architect Peter McCourt; Art Firm Advisor executive assistant Jasmin Charters; Los Angeles art dealer Harmony Murphy; and George Newall and Ingrid Lundgren, co-proprietors of Winter Street Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard.
Congrats! To those who think the promise of artist-designed Wet Paint hats for the winners is no more than a bit, just you wait! The hats will be real, and the quiz masters will get them.
Here’s this week’s clue. Name the film this is a still from, the artwork on the right, and the person who is depicted in the artwork on the right (not the actor on the left, we don’t need that—we need the full name of the person in the artwork.)
You need all three answers to win. Those who roll yahtzee will receive hats, eternal glory, and their names in the pantheon of Wet Paint geniuses. Email guesses to [email protected].
Alex Da Corte is now represented in New York and Los Angeles by Matthew Marks—Da Corte was previously repped in New York by Karma, but will still show at Sadie Coles HQ in London … Christie’s will open a new office and gallery in San Francisco, in a Geary Street building just steps away from SFMOMA … “comeasyouare,” a benefit exhibition organized by the art advisor Daniel Oglander, will donate proceeds to the grassroots organization G.L.I.T.S. (Gays & Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society)—there are still works available for a very worthwhile cause … the Artists Plate Project, which benefits Coalition for the Homeless, tapped such leading artists as Rashid Johnson, Ed Ruscha, Eddie Martinez, Nina Chanel Abney, and Jonas Wood to make custom works-as-plates (priced at $175 and in an edition of 175); the full editions sold out in minutes, though the edition made by Yoshitomo Nara sold out in seconds … Nemesis co-founder Emily Segal—a founding member of the “normcore”-coining collective K-HOLE—has her first novel, Mercury Retrograde, available to pre-order Monday, and after reading the opening pages of an advance galley, we can say it’s an art-world satire for the ages … Maison Margiela will be screening Marco Brambilla‘s Nude Descending a Staircase No. 3 at its Design District store in Miami from December 3 to 5 during a Miami Art Week that more art-worlders than you might expect have committed to trekking to … George Condo has commissioned a work by the German composer Matthias Pintscher that will be performed live today at 2:00 p.m. EST by Condo’s partner, the violinist Leila Josefowicz—stream it on the Hauser & Wirth website, where you can also scroll through pictures of the new Condo paintings up at Hauser’s new Chelsea digs …
Tico Mugrabi and Wendi Murdoch in video footage of the Republican National Convention last August at the White House, with Murdoch in a bright red MAGA mask—hat tip to Vanity Fair reporter Emily Jane Fox on that one *** Tom Sachs lunching outside at Jack’s Wife Frida, steps away from his Centre Street studio *** Selena Gomez at art-world watering hole Lucien with NBA stars Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, and others *** Emily Ratajkowski commenting on an Instagram post by ATM Gallery of work by Jake Clark and tagging the artist Grant Levy-Lucero—whose work many, including Emrata, think it resembles very closely ***
Wet Paint will be off next week for Thanksgiving. Happy holidays!
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