Wet Paint: Mary Boone Angles for Early Release From Coronavirus-Ridden Prison, Nancy Pelosi’s Art Collection Revealed, & More Art-World Gossip

Where is the CEO of Sotheby's buying his emergency cases of wine? What's the last gallery in America still opening shows? Read on for answers.

Mary Boone in 2013. Photo by Neil Rasmus, courtesy of BFA.

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].



American prisons have become dangerous breeding grounds for the highly contagions coronavirus, and according to the New York Times, more than 1,300 cases were tied to prisons as of Wednesday, a figure that is probably undercounted due to a lack of testing. One of the most infected hotspots at the moment is the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. Last week, there were nine confirmed cases, which has since ballooned to 50. As a result, Attorney General William Barr said on March 26 that on a case-by-case basis, those incarcerated at FCI Danbury, among select other prisons, could be removed and placed in home confinement if they are elderly or have existing health conditions. Since then, the Bureau of Prisons has placed 566 inmates from Danbury in home confinement—but we still don’t know the fate of one famous inmate: Mary Boone, the legendary art dealer who is serving time for tax fraud and is not expected to be released until 2021.

The Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury. Photo courtesy: Bureau of Prisons.

Boone is 68, placing her among those most at risk of having a serious reaction to coronavirus infection. Under the current rules, each inmate is evaluated individually based on a series of discretionary factors including age, health, history of good behavior, and the security level of the jail, with the most home confinements granted to low- and minimum-security prisons like Danbury.

But by all accounts, she is still behind bars for now—though sources say a number of supporters are trying to petition to get her out. A database lists Boone’s current location as FCI Danbury, and when reached at his Upper East Side apartment, Robert Fink, her attorney during the 2019 trial, said he did not know whether she had been placed in home confinement. A spokesperson for the BOP told Wet Paint that “for privacy and safety and security reasons, we do not release information on an individual inmate’s specific transfer or conditions of confinement.”



Speaker Pelosi on Maddow from home. Photo courtesy MSNBC.

One fun game to play during the global pandemic is to try and guess the paintings in the background when talking heads go live on TV from their art-filled homes. It’s kind of like looking at what part of the bookshelf your coworker consciously put in the frame while Zooming in for a meeting—like, did you really read Finnegans Wake? Anyway, dealers such as Mitchell Algus and Matthew Higgs have been on Instagram diligently pointing out what art is installed behind those who go on TV to either offer shallow words of reassurance or horrify a sheltering-in-place nation. Richard Haass, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, set up the frame to include his soothing monochrome by the Scottish painter Callum Innes, while former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has a perfectly fine blue Joan Miro print. And on Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi went on Rachel Maddow while sitting in front of a large, yellow-washed expressionist painting. After Higgs put it on Instagram, several guesses were thrown out—could it be the work of Richard Diebenkorn? Or Elmer Bischoff, who lived in San Francisco, which is in Pelosi’s district? Nope. The Chicago artist Wesley Kimler commented on the post to say it was his. “Looks nothing like a Diebenkorn in its entirety,” he added.



A new work by Adam McEwen at The National Exemplar in Iowa City. Photo courtesy Eneas Capalbo.

The state of Iowa has yet to call for a full shelter in place, and as of right now, a number of businesses are still open—much to the ire of citizens who think that Republican Governor Kim Reynolds isn’t doing enough to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. In response, she held a press conference Monday and announced that, starting this week, all malls, bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, and other places where socialization happens would be officially shuttered. And while museums are listed on the must-shutter list, art galleries are not. That’s good news for at least one Iowan: Eneas Capalbo, who runs the Iowa City gallery The National Exemplar, which had a space in New York’s Chinatown before moving West in September 2019, kicking things off with a Nate Lowman show. Capalbo was planning to open a presentation of new work by Adam McEwen on April 1 and—unlike any other gallery in the United States with April exhibitions—open the show they did. “Only show to open in the whole country!” he said. That may be true, but cheekily enough, the show comprises one of McEwen’s works that riff on the old “Sorry We’re Closed” sign, and is installed on the outside, telling passerby (and there are some passerby, apparently) to stay away. “It’s kind of like when Cattelan did his window gallery in Chelsea,” Capalbo said. The sign says “Sorry Ravi Shankar” to honor the 100th anniversary of the late sitar master, who would have become a centenarian April 7.



Peter Beard rock hunting at Driftwood Cover, in the Hamptons. Photo courtesy Bill Powers.

Its been over a week, and the legendary photographer and glamorous Factory-era icon Peter Beard is still missing on Montauk. He was last seen on March 31 at 4:30 p.m., and local authorities have been on the hunt with K9 units, ATVs, and GPS field grid mapping—all to no avail. Now, the local art community is giving up much hope of finding the legendary photographer alive. Half Gallery owner Bill Powers, who’s currently on Montauk riding out the coronavirus crisis, got married in Beard’s backyard and got to know him while conducting a few long-form interviews. But he’s, sadly, not hopeful about Beard. According to Powers, given the artist’s dementia, “I can’t imagine he’d get too far on foot.” The gallerist was trying to stay positive, even while assuming the worst. Says Powers: “Maybe he was destined to go like Amelia Earhart. Poof. Gone. Or maybe he’s on one last bender. Legends never die.”



I am very proud to say that no one answered last week’s Pop Quiz correctly. That means the winner is… Wet Paint! I can’t tell you the location of the Urs Fischer—but maybe, if someone’s able to get it in the future, I’ll pull back the curtain and make a big reveal.

For now, here’s a fresh one. These two works are in the same institution. What are the works, and what is the specific name of the museum that they are in?

Former Pop Quiz winners include Nobel laureates, Fields Medal winners, renowned astrophysicists… and lowly gallery directors bored in their homes. First person to answer all parts of the question correctly gets a shout-out in a future column.



*** Artist Heji Shin posting a glorious photo of her drinking a beer with critic Camille Paglia at one of those glorious places that we used to go to—what were they called?—oh right, bars *** Artist Elizabeth Jaeger giving a nice cooking lesson by making some brown butter and sage pasta over the Houseparty app *** Sotheby’s CEO Charlie Stewart snagging a case of wine from his auction house’s own wine store, getting high on his own supply a week after Sotheby’s announced that 12 percent of its workforce has been furloughed ***

The Sotheby’s CEO with his CEO-level haul of vino. Photo via Instagram.



New Nicolas Party drawings, coming to an L.A. children’s hospital. Photo courtesy: Instagram.

Nicolas Party is working with RxArt to make work for the Children’s Hospital Los AngelesTodd von Ammon is temporarily moving his fabulous Washington, DC gallery von ammon co. online with a show of video works by the likes of Darren Bader, Tabor Robak, Violet Dennison, and Alex Bag that opens April 18 … Sam McKinniss, the preeminent portraitist of this warped and bizarre pop-culture moment, announced during his takeover of the Almine Rech Instagram account that he’s self-isolating by making painters of Keiko the Whale and watching Tiger King



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