Wet Paint: A Pro-Trump Dealer Joins the ‘Reopen’ Protests, Mega-Galleries Lose Artists Amid Market Crunch, & More Juicy Art-World Gossip

Which artist is starting a fair for art-school students? What's the wildest story about Peter Beard and the Kennedys? Read on for answers.

(L-R) Tony Shafrazi, who has come out as an ardent supporter of President Trump, seen here with Peter Brant, Larry Gagosian, and Alex Rodriguez at Aby Rosen and Samantha Boardman's dinner at The Dutch on December 5, 2013 in Miami Beach. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Aby Rosen Dinner.

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].



On April 16, Tony Shafrazi logged onto Twitter and retweeted a message from a user who had posted a video of the anti-shutdown protests in Lansing, Michigan. Shafrazi, the gallery owner famed for vandalizing Guernica and for giving early shows to artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, and Keith Haring, has recently begun to use his lively account to air some unexpected viewpoints. Text accompanying the video indicated that he was not only endorsing the protests—he was effectively joining them.

“Absolutely Right!” Shafrazi wrote, his style even more all-caps-happy than that of his beloved commander-in-chief. “PEOPLE must be RESPECTED & TRUSTED with care and caution TO RETURN TO WORK because THEY NEED TO & THEY MUST ! Getting AMERICA Back To Work IS THE VERY SIGN and ACT OF FREE WILL, INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY and the GREAT FAITH  with which THIS BATTLE WILL BE WON !”

From left, Melania Trump, Donald Trump, and French photographer Patrick Demarchelier pose together during an art opening at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in Soho, New York, New York, 1999. Photo by Rose Hartman/Getty Images.

Shafrazi’s entire feed looks more like that of a Trump-loving conspiracy theorist than of a guy who for years has been part of the art-world jet-set. Even since his gallery closed in 2014, he has often been spotted at galas, receptions for the Brant Foundation in Greenwich, Connecticut, and in a primo seat at the evening sales, hobnobbing with the Nahmads (but rarely bidding).

The frequency of the declarations make clear that this is not some kind of passing phase. In the past few weeks, he has tweeted or retweeted messages that refer to “left leaning globalists” and “the FAKE media” and said HBO host Bill Maher was part of “‘LYNCH’ Mobs out to DESTROY.” Shafrazi has retweeted President Trump a dozen or so times, and even made a reference to a conversation they had in the ’90s when they ran in the same art-adjacent circles.

“You can DO IT TO IT & DO IT GOOD ! Thank you Mr President,” Shafrazi tweeted on April 13.

He has offered his support for the immigration ban and retweeted James Woods when the hard-Republican actor posted a meme suggesting throwing Hillary Clinton in jail is the “one promise left.” With a link to a video of Anderson Cooper interviewing Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman about her decision to reopen casinos, Shafrazi accused “socialists” of being “Alarmist Panic driven FASCIST PROPAGANDA bullshit LIE used as WEAPON of Fear.” (And, yes, as intrigued reporters have confirmed in the past, the Twitter account is real. Shafrazi did not respond to our direct message.)

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs (L) and gallery owner Tony Shafrazi attend CULO by Mazzucco book and art exhibition launch at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in 2011 in New York City. Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage.

His Instagram presence is slightly less frenzied, but it also causes consternation among the artists and collectors he once worked with. After posting a relatively neutral-seeming message that said, among other platitudes, “let us be more gracious,” the comments section got a bit messy. Collector Andy Hall called Trump a “morally challenged wannabe dictator whose stock in trade is hatred and division.” Shafrazi responded by accusing Hall of “Spewing & Spreading Bitter HATE and DIVISION.” When Sharf commented “TruckFump”—a comment liked by dealer Leo Koenig and artist Enoc Perez—Shafrazi responded “IS THAT GREAT HELP TO US ALL ?”

The same might be said of the Tony Shafrazi’s social-media presence.


The Hauser & Wirth gallery complex in downtown Los Angeles. Photo courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

The dealer Ed Winkleman once said that, in a recession, it is inevitable that gallery rosters get shaken up. Either the artists will jump ship or the gallery will cut non-essential artists loose. In the six-year period between 2008 and 2014, Winkleman estimated that mid-level galleries lost 46 percent of their artists. The mega-galleries were only slightly less vulnerable, losing 30 percent of their artists. And while we don’t know how many artists will bail or be cut this time around, we already have some departures from at least one of the big guys. Over the past six months, Pace and David Zwirner went without any defections—congrats! But comparing the current Hauser & Wirth roster with a screenshot from last July, both the sculptor Ron Mueck and the photographer Ian Wallace have disappeared. Wallace last had a show in Zurich in 2017, and Mueck made a splash with a show at the London gallery in 2012. (A rep for Hauser didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.) Another artist missing from the roster is Henry Taylor, but through an intermediary, the beloved artist insisted he’s very much still with the gallery—his artist page just needed some copy editing. Gagosian, too, says its missing artists—Walton Ford and Kim Gordon—are still repped by the dealer even if they aren’t on the gallery’s main page. Instead, they’re visible in the full index under “See All Artists.”



Lucien Smith attends the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 26, 2017 in Beverly Hills. Photo by Presley Ann Slack/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.

The artist Lucien Smith, who first captivated the art world as a young phenom in the early 2010s, got his start after Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn bought work of out of his thesis show at Cooper Union. But since there will be no physical thesis shows this semester to give graduating artists that crucial first shot at success, Smith is using his nonprofit Serving The People to organize the mini digital fair “BFA Student Show.” Students from participating schools—there are 48 so far—can show one work that they made during this disrupted term. The idea came to Smith when a student at his alma mater reached out trying to see if there was anything he could do to help the unfortunate situation. “Serving the People is really about problem solving,” said Smith, who also has a new painting for sale in the digital Half Gallery booth at the online Dallas Art Fair. “Ben Werther, an artist I work with who is currently studying at Cooper Union, expressed to me some disappointment about not having a senior exhibition this year due to closures. And I realized that’s the case for a lot of art students.” He added that the platform is an entirely student-run enterprise, and that any school that hasn’t yet put forth a rep can apply by May 15.


Last week’s quiz was, um, a tough one! Very few of you even even ventured a guess as to who made the work presented as the clue, and even fewer tried to identify the origin of the posters. Here’s the full answer: The photo was part of Christopher Wool’s Incident on 9th Street, a set of 13 photos showing his East Village studio after a fire—they were originally taken to document the damage and then sent to the insurance company. (Wool’s work in photography is metal as fuck—check out Studio Polaroids and East Broadway Breakdown.) The fire happened in 1996, and the flier was for… a Jack Pierson show held in January 1995 at Jack Hanley, which was then located in San Francisco, around the corner from SFMOMA.

Here’s the flier up close.

No one got all three parts of the quiz right. But I’m going to bend the rules and award this week’s Pop Quiz trophy to the one and only person who identified the Wool work and knew that the flier was for a Jack Pierson show, although he was a hair off on the venue. And that person is… the critic Andrew Russeth, a writer beloved by all and an indefatigable chronicler of the arts in New York City and beyond. Congrats to Andrew!

And now, on to the clue for this week. Here is a portrait of the artist. Who is it?

All rules apply for this one. Just be the first respondent with the correct answer sent to [email protected] and, yahtzee! The winner gets a martini at Lucien bought for you by your diligent scribe as soon as all the bars reopen—in, like, a few months? 2021? Never? But more immediately, you get a shout-out in the grandest art-world gossip column on the great big internet.


Asad Raza leading a session on his new platform Home Cooking. Photo courtesy Instagram.

Blind item: a number of Chelsea galleries gutted their staffs, and one shop (which also has an outpost uptown) laid off nearly all staffers and slashed salaries by half for the ones that stayed … the artist Asad Raza has founded, in collaboration with the artist Marianna Simnett, the platform Home Cooking, which he calls an “open-source digest of activities, poetry, movement, and live events” and in the next few days there will be appearances by Moriah Evans, Agnieszka Kurant, Prem Krishnamurthy, and Hans Ulrich Obrist … the interior designer Ricky Clifton has a noteworthy memory of Peter Beard—who was pronounced dead on Monday after going missing for weeks in Montauk—and it involves his friends, the Kennedys: “MY FAVORITE PETER STORY WAS WHEN HE GOT INTO DEEP SHIT FOR CUTTING JOHN JOHN’S HAIR ON ONASSIS’ YACHT CHRISTINA. THERE WAS HAIR ALL OVER ARI’S SCROTUM UPHOLSTERED BAR STOOLS. JACKIE AND LEE INVITED HIM.” … Chinatown dealer Helena Anrather has started a crowd-sourced video channel called SCREENERS that will feature a new video work every 24 hours, selected by dealers Ellie Rines and Lucas Casso, former Signal proprietor Kyle Clairmont Jacques, and the artist Catherine Telford KeoghDimes Square may be shut, and Clandestino is not opening at any point in the near future, but Montez Press Radio continues to thank the heroic efforts of so many, so tune in today and through the weekend and hear live radio during the time of the pandemic—especially Saturday at 9 p.m. for Bad Masterpieces, hosted by the great East Village-based editor Dean Kissick and yours truly…


Diddy is rocking a formidable coronabeard. Photo courtesy of Instagram.

Diddy sporting a big bushy beard on CNN while sitting in front of Kerry James Marshall’s Past Times, the masterpiece that the rapper and entrepreneur bought at Sotheby’s in 2018 for $21 million *** a bunch of art-world luminaries—dealer Brett Gorvy, collector Gael Neeson, editor Magnus Berger, gallerist Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, artist Rachel Feinstein, Hard Rock Cafe founder and collector Peter Morton—wishing happy birthday to Tico Mugrabi, who we wrote plenty about last week *** Phoebe Waller-Bridge virtually going on Stephen Colbert while sitting in front of a Karlheinz Weinberger poster that she possibly bought at the Swiss Institute *** Cecily Brown getting all her PPE assembled before venturing outside, staying safe by wearing a mask made by threeASFOUR ***

Cecily Brown, masked with paintings. Photo courtesy Instagram.


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