Wet Paint: Bidders Go Bananas for John Richardson’s Knickknacks, Frank Ocean’s After Harold Ancart Paintings, & More Juicy Art-World Gossip

Which billionaire collectors got a quarter-million in PPP loans? Which designer snagged a store in cherished SoHo space? Read on for answers.

Sir John Richardson. Photo courtesy Sotheby's.

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].



Earlier this week, Stair, the tiny furniture specialist with a storefront on Warren Street in Hudson, New York, was putting the finishing touches on this week’s sale: an online auction of assorted curios that once filled the downtown apartment of Sir John Richardson, the distinguished writer and art world man-about-town who’s best known for writing the definitive, multi-volume biography of Pablo Picasso. The major artworks from his collection will be sold at Sotheby’s throughout the fall, meaning Stair got… well, everything else. Potential bidders had to wade through 500-odd trinkets and knickknacks, oddly shaped archaic furniture, and decorative stuff once strewn about the writer’s loft. Much of it was first bought at flea markets and junk shops. Of some interest to completists, sure, but certainly a niche set of Richardsonica.

The decor in Sir John Richardson's Fifth Avenue Apartment. Photo courtesy Stair.

The decor in Sir John Richardson’s Fifth Avenue Apartment. Photo courtesy Stair.

But there turned out to be a great deal of interest, as some of these lots exploded, with bidding evidently coming in from deep-pocketed erudites who simply could not live without a piece of Richardson’s legacy lingering in their abodes. A marble bust that once sat on a pedestal by Richardson’s window was estimated to sell for $700 to $900. Instead it went for $175,000, more than 200 times the high estimate. A gouache drawing of an Indian man with a sword was supposed to sell for a high limit of $800. Instead it went for $80,000. Someone paid $12,000 for a pair of vases that were only supposed to sell for $250.

The $175,000 bust installed in Sir John Richardson's apartment. Photo courtesy Stair.

The $175,000 bust installed in Sir John Richardson’s apartment. Photo courtesy Stair.

The sale also had some cool, if minor, Picasso artifacts that the artist gifted Richardson over the years, including a drawing of a bull (sold for $21,000); a painting, by the French illustrator Christian Bérard, of Picasso’s favorite Parisian cabaret singer, Damia (sold for $32,000); and a sloppy Picasso-scribbled smiley face on a museum catalogue cover (sold for $19,000).

A little drawing Picasso made on a museum show catalogue. Photo courtesy Stair.

A little drawing Picasso made on a museum show catalogue. Photo courtesy Stair.

If you had a fierce hankering for a Continental White Glazed Porcelain Boar Head Tureen, well, it would have set you back $4,000.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present, the Continental White Glazed Porcelain Boar Head Tureen. Photo courtesy Stair.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present, the Continental White Glazed Porcelain Boar Head Tureen. Photo courtesy Stair.

The identities of the buyers are alas secret, though the late historian’s circle was full of people who can certainly drop four-figure sums on anthropomorphic tureens. Among his closest friends were the names engraved into some of the world’s great museum: the Basses, the Lauders, the Guinnesses, the Niarchoses. Perhaps such sources of generational fortunes were the ones bidding these items up this week, elevating them from thrift store finds to cherished objects once owned by a storied art-world figure.



Harold Ancart, The Sea (2020), in 'Traveling Light.' Photo courtesy David Zwirner.

Harold Ancart, The Sea (2020), in ‘Traveling Light.’ Photo courtesy David Zwirner.

The spree of fall openings in New York is a bit subdued this year, but does that mean there can’t be buzzed-about shows in the cathedrals of Chelsea? Surely not! There are currently a dozen or so stellar exhibitions lighting up the neighborhood, with plenty more set to be unveiled in the coming weeks. Perhaps the most talked-about show so far this season is Harold Ancart’s first New York solo show at David Zwirner, “Traveling Light.” Open for a week now, the show proves Ancart can absolutely fill a gargantuan mega-gallery space. According to a number of advisors who have either bought works from the show for clients, or fought tooth-and-nail to get one, the spectacle puts an end to any questions about whether he deserves the market momentum he’s enjoyed these past few years.

Harold Ancart, left, at the opening of "Freeze" (2018). Photo by Justyna Fedec courtesy David Zwirner.

Harold Ancart, left, at the opening of “Freeze” (2018). Photo by Justyna Fedec courtesy David Zwirner.

It’s also a show that needs to be seen in person—plenty of collectors are coming down from the Hamptons for the day just to see it, sources say. Having swung by Saturday, this columnist understands why. One half of the 19th Street space is dedicated to a series of paintings of trees, with branches in radiant pigments that make the arboreal limbs sizzle on the canvas. The other side of the gallery sports two massive landscape triptychs, one of the sea and one of the desert, installed in such a way that, to look at one, you have to back up all the way to the other one; upon turning around, you’re face to face with the canvas, the brushstrokes and lines of sight right at your nose. Like Ancart himself, the show is infectious, loose-limbed and energetic, and it already has its fair share of admirers—including the enigmatic pop star Frank Ocean, who arrived to see the show Saturday afternoon, hopping out of a gigantic black SUV late in the day and getting a detailed tour of the environs. And word has it that one of the triptychs, The Sea (2020), has sold to an institution for what sources said was a $750,000. Not a bad way to open a show. Zwirner reps confirmed that the work had sold, but declined to confirm the price, calling the $750,000 figure “inaccurate” without going into details.

Installation view of "Traveling Light." Photo courtesy David Zwirner.

Installation view of “Traveling Light.” Photo courtesy David Zwirner.


Last week’s was a fun one—and a bunch of people got it correct! High fives! The television show is Curb Your Enthusiasm, the work is Antony Gormley’s LIST IV (2010) and it is at the UTA headquarters in Beverly Hills, California. Larry David is at the talent agency’s offices to meet with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is helping him with Fatwa! The Musical. Classic episode.

Here are the readers who got all three parts of the clue right: Darrow Contemporary founder Meredith Darrow; art advisor Rachel Cole; Sarah Goulet Communications founder Sarah Goulet; Sotheby’s client strategist Madeleine Kramer; and Edelman | Mack co-founder Eleanor Edelman. Congrats to the winners! You are now this close to getting a Wet Paint cap, which is being designed by our mystery artist collaborator as we speak.

OK, here’s the clue for this week. Name the film this screenshot is from, the name of the artist, the name of the artist’s painting in the background, and the (real life) owner of the painting.

Email [email protected] if you have a guess. Winners with all the parts of the quiz correct get hats and eternal glory!



The new Marc Jacobs store in Soho. Photo courtesy a tipster.

The new Marc Jacobs store in Soho. Photo courtesy a tipster.

Marc Jacobs—currently one of the very few permanent guests at the Mercer Hotel—is opening a boutique at 127 Prince Street, which was famously the location of FOOD, the pioneering Soho restaurant founded by Carol Goodden, Tina Girouard and Gordon Matta-Clark that became a crucial reference point for the relational aesthetics movement… High Fashion Concepts LLC—the family office of the Mugrabis, the billionaires who are perhaps the biggest art-collecting family in the world—received a PPP loan in May of somewhere between $150,000 and $350,000, according to documents reviewed by Wet Paint … Chongqing chicken wing-slinger Mission Chinese, a restaurant that hosted a number of dinner collaborations with artists such as Korakrit Arunanondchai and Chloe Wise, will close its Dimes Square location at the end of the month, citing a lack of business … Los Angeles gallery Morán Morán now represents artists Chelsea Culprit and Tunji Adeniyi-JonesLower East Side gallery Brennan & Griffin’s space has emptied its contents out of the Norfolk Street storefront it’s occupied for years … Lisson Gallery is opening a six-month pop-up new space on Cork Street in Mayfair, with the first show going up during Frieze London 

Derek Wilson. Photo courtesy the Wilson Center for Science and Justice at Duke University.

Derek Wilson. Photo courtesy the Wilson Center for Science and Justice at Duke University.

Dallas-based collector Derek Wilson has given Duke University—his alma mater, as well as the esteemed alma mater of Wet Paint—$5 million for the law school’s criminal-justice reform efforts, and the Duke will use it to establish the Wilson Center for Science and JusticeLoïc Gouzer‘s Fair Warning app sold a Yoshitomo Nara painting for just under $1.2 million … Art21 premieres its new season today, and the first episode, which focuses on artists working in London, will feature John Akomfrah, Phyllida Barlow, Anish Kapoor, and Christian Marclay … Advisor Daniel Oglander is putting together an online selling exhibition to benefit the grassroots organization Gays & Lesbians Living In a Transgender Society … People are quite angry that Jerry Saltz went to the New Museum and took his mask off while speaking to an employee—and perhaps even angrier that he said Steely Dan is “the worst band ever” and added “Almost only men love Steely Dan” …


Jose Martos, left, and Kayode Ojo, at Ojo's opening. Photo courtesy Nate Freeman.

Jose Martos, left, and Kayode Ojo, at Ojo’s opening. Photo courtesy Nate Freeman.

*** Artists Kayode Ojo and Valerie Keane and a few other friends at Dr Clark, the hit new Chinatown restaurant featuring delectable Hokkaido specialties and server garb made by Bode designer Emily Bode, following the opening of Ojo’s new show at Martos Gallery *** Sterling Ruby installing new works at Los Angeles gallery Nonaka-Hill, which until now has focused solely on artists from Japan—and has the distinction of being located directly next to Petit Trois, the hotspot owned by chefs and collectors Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo *** Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez enjoying date night with boyfriend Riley Roberts at the Serafina next to the Whitney *** A number of artists and curators gathering in Fort Greene Park to celebrate the opening celebration for Constanza Schaffner’s show of new work at Central Fine in Miami, hosted by her husband, the artist Wyatt Kahn—the show might be in Florida, but mask-on guests got to see a small model of the exhibition that the artist brought from her studio ***



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