Wet Paint: Leonardo DiCaprio Flips a Work That Was Dedicated to Him, Hans-Ulrich Obrist Interviews Animals on TikTok, & More Juicy Art-World Gossip

Which mega-rockstar might get a show at Gagosian? Which collector donated $1,000 to save a Williamsburg bookstore? Read on for answers.

Leonardo DiCaprio at the 11th Hour auction at Christie's in New York, 2013. Photo courtesy AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images.

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].



Leonardo DiCaprio‘s long been a major contemporary art collector, attending fairs and auctions for many a year. Just last February—in the before times—there was Leo at Frieze Los Angeles, staring long and deep into the wonders of a new Avery Singer work at the Hauser & Wirth booth. For the many years that he worked with the adviser Lisa Schiff, he built up a formidable collection, snapping up works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jonas Wood, Ed Ruscha, Takashi Murakami, and Andreas Gursky. In 2013, his 11th Hour auction at Christie’s jumpstarted a number of artist’s markets, setting records for future evening-sale stalwarts such as Mark Grotjahn, Dan Colen and Elizabeth Peyton.

But DiCaprio doesn’t just buy art… he also flips art. 

The Jeff Elrod work in the Sotheby’s digital catalogue. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

Rumors have circulated for years that Leo, despite having a day job as one of the most famous silver screen leading men alive, has a side-hustle as something of a “specu-lector,” to borrow a phrase from Artnet News columnist Kenny Schachter. In fact, Schachter said back in 2015 that Leo was the one dumping works by seen-better-days artists such as Christian Rosa at auction.

Now a Sotheby’s catalogue entry for a Jeff Elrod offers some cold, hard facts. According to the official provenance for Untitled (2014)—which sold for $25,000 last week, below its low estimate of $30,000 but evidently above the reserve—the first home of the work was “Collection of Leonardo DiCaprio, Los Angeles (acquired directly from the artist).” Despite the fact that Elrod even dedicated the work to the actor—it reads “for LEO” on the overlap—at some point in the past six years, DiCaprio dumped the work, selling it through another private collection and then to its Sotheby’s consignor. And who might that be? It appears that the dealer and active auction bidder Stellan Holm was at the very least involved in the transaction—though some sources indicated he could be the consignor. And look at a picture of the back of the work, which Sotheby’s added to the digital catalogue, and you’ll see a sticker that says “STELLAN HOLM GALLERY 1018 MADISON AVENUE NEW YORK NY.”

Holm didn’t respond to an email, and neither did Elrod. There was no response to an email to a DiCaprio rep at Karla Otto. Sotheby’s did not respond in time for publication.



Mick Jagger and Larry Gagosian at a dinner at Mr Chow, Beverly Hills. Photo courtesy Patrick McMullan

Back when we were allowed to leave our homes and see other human beings, there would be art openings, and sometimes you would even see interesting people there. Hey, you could even see the world’s most interesting person: Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. He’s a regular at Gagosian openings when we had those sorts of things, and we’ve seen him not once but twice at the Beverly Hills space. He also has turned up for Gagosian dinners in London, including one for Ed Ruscha in 2008, and is at least on acquaintance terms with Larry Gagosian. The Wall Street Journal even reported that, after Larry gave a show to Bob Dylan, Mick called the dealer asking if he’d show Stones-mate Ronnie Wood’s art—only to have Larry shoot him down. (Mick told the Journal the whole thing was Larry’s idea. Who knows with these guys.)

Julia Peyton-Jones and Mick Jagger attend a private dinner to celebrate the opening of “Ed Ruscha: Paintings” in 2008 in London, England. Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images.

Maybe there won’t be a show for Ronnie, but a tantalizing clue pointed to a potential show for Mick. After the hackers known as REvil released documents related to the entertainment law firm started by Allen Grubman, most press was focused on the lawyer’s dealers with Lady Gaga. But one eagle-eyed source saw another intriguing item on the client list: Among the other entities, there is something referred to as “Gagosian + Jagger Project.” Unfortunately, the content of that specific file has yet to be leaked, and the gallery would not comment. But whenever gallery shows return, we might have one where the frontman of the Stones takes over an outpost of the world’s biggest gallery empire. If there are still galleries, that is!



Hans-Ulrich Obrist at a reception celebrating the 2019 Serpentine Pavilion. Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images.

Hans-Ulrich Obrist was—just months ago, before time stopped—so associated with curating shows in all corners of the world that was the ubiquitous face of its jet-setting nature. “The Dadaists had Tzara, the Surrealists Breton, the futurists Marinetti, and now the international global art world has Hans-Ulrich Obrist,” curator Massimiliano Gioni told The New Yorker.

Stuck at home, Obrist is still finding ways of innovating. It will surprise no one that he has a truly remarkable social media presence on the built-for-Gen-Z platform TikTok. I repeat: Do not sleep on Hans-Ulrich Obrist’s TikTok. The art world’s most renowned interviewer is still asking questions but now he’s asking them… to unresponsive flora and fauna.

“I wanted to ask you about your unrealized projects,” he says in one short video, to a group of swans wading in a pond. The swans keep swimming. One eventually squawks. “Projects that have been too big to be realized?” Obrist asks the swans. “Maybe utopic projects? Like dreams?” It’s what you get when you cross a symposium at a kunsthalle with the classic Saturday Night Live sketch “Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals.” 

Swans in conversation with Hans-Ulrich Obrist. Photo courtesy Hans-Ulrich Obrist TikTok.

Wet Paint asked Obrist about the inspiration behind his TikTok, and he mentioned Vinciane Despret‘s book “What Would Animals Say If We Asked the Right Questions?”

As Bruno Latour said, it’s a book of scientific fables about how difficult it is for us to figure out what animals are up to,” Obrist said over email. “I keep meeting all these animals in Kensington Gardens on my daily walk and daily yoga I do in the park, and started to ask them my favorite question about their unrealized projects.” Makes sense to us. He also mentioned he was inspired by other artists on TikTok, including Jeremy O. Harris, Precious Okoyomon, Kelsey Lu, Juliana Huxtable, Alex Israel, and Haroon Gunn-Salie.



The Pop Quiz from the last edition of Wet Paint sure did fool a bunch of you loyal readers. Many guessed it was a work by Richard Serra, perhaps a snippet of a photo of his monumental sculptures at the the Menil Collection in Houston, the Brant Foundation in Greenwich, or Storm King Art Center in Upstate New York. But alas, this was not a Serra, but a work by his colleague Robert Irwin. And is wasn’t Irwin’s majestic installation at LACMA, as many thought. No: It’s Irwin’s Tilted Planes, installed at the private home and world-class private art collection of Cindy and Howard Rachofsky in Dallas.

Here’s the larger image that the snippet was taken from. 

And now it’s time to reveal the winners. Many of you got it correct, but there were three right out the gate at essentially the same time: writer and curator Greg Allen, powerhouse art-world publicist Andrea Schwan, and Curatorial Services founder Benjamin Godsill. An honorable mention goes to Gagosian director Jona Lueddeckens, who was just behind the top three, but on the horn from Europe after waking up. We’re figuring out how to deal with the time zone thing here at Wet Paint HQ.

Congrats to the winners!

OK, on to this week’s challenge. Can you name the painting on the left and its owner? We’ll need the name of the painting, the artist, and the name of owner to clinch it.

Email [email protected] if you have a guess. The first readers to respond correctly will take their place in the Wet Paint Pop Quiz Canyon of Heroes alongside other trivia-mad fast-typing members of the art world.



A martini alfresco. Photo courtesy Lucien Instagram.

Lucien—the East Village French bistro that is the art boite to end all art boites—is reopen for delivery and take-out, including martinis to-go! … collector Maja Hoffmann (a Lucien regular, incidentally) may be spending her lockdown on the semi-private island of Mustique, but she’s accomplished more in terms of pandemic response than arguably anyone, as her family’s pharmaceutical company, Roche, developed the first antibody test to be approved by the FDAUpper East Side dealer Edward Ressle quietly moved forward with a new space in Shanghai in late 2019 and oh boy has the bet paid off—the Bund gallery will open with Bruce Nauman‘s first show in mainland China on June 13, while most of the world’s art cities lay dormant … Lower East Side bar-cum-gallery Beverley’s has started a Kickstarter to help it avoid permanent closure, and when it goes live Saturday, contributors at certain levels can get artworks or even their own edition of the iconic Bev’s pink neon sign … the new arty Grand Cayman hotel Palm Heights—which has uniforms made by the wonderful Bode designer Emily Bode!—hosted a COVID-19 fundraiser featuring remote performances by photographer Tyler Mitchell and artists Raúl De Nieves and Jacolby Satterwhite, along with “in-person” performances from aforementioned HUO fave Kelsey Lu and chef Angela Dimayuga, who have both been stuck at the hotel since they started a residency prior to lockdown … the Kronenhalle has reopened in Zurich, meaning that Swiss patrons can once again enjoy a cold beer and zürcher geschnetzeltes with rösti while surrounded Picassos, Miros and Chagalls

Kronenhalle, avec masques. Photo courtesy Kronenhalle Insagram.



Moz in the wild. Photo courtesy Instagram.

Morrissey in everyone’s favorite art city, Marfa *** Artist Cecily Brown and critic David Rimanelli lightly bickering in Instagram comments about the morals of posting a David Bailey picture of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate—“He just grosses me out. Call me old fashioned,” Brown says in a jab *** Vito Schnabel inviting Aby Rosen to come over for a play date after Rosen posts to InstagramNeed to dance ? again ?” *** Beth Rudin DeWoody donating $1,000 to save the beloved Williamsburg independent bookstore Spoonbill & Sugartown as artists Eddie Martinez and Leidy Churchman gave $500 each—other contributions came from artists Nicole Eisenman, Sam McKinniss, Amy Sillman, Tehching Hsieh, and Zoe Leonard; dealers Peter Freeman and Andrea Rosen; writers Barry Schwabsky and Randy Kennedy, among many others *** Political commentator John Heilemann going on MSNBC with a Josef Albers print hanging on his wall in the background ***

John Heilemann with an Albers print. Photo courtesy Matthew Higgs Instagram (Once again, thanks go to Matthew for his diligent chronicling of these art-on-cable-news spottings.)



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