Wet Paint: Jordan Wolfson Really Hates the New Jordan Wolfson Documentary, a New York Gallery Defies Quarantine, & More Juicy Art-World Gossip
What artwork is getting flipped shamelessly at Sotheby's? Which conceptual artist built a savvy online sales platform? Read on for answers.
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]
WOLFSON AT THE DOOR
The art world’s first communal must-see stream of global quarantine is “Spit Earth: Who is Jordan Wolfson?” The documentary is a dishy take on an artist who, for a variety of reasons, is hard to look away from. In addition to the talking heads that pop up to call Wolfson a “genius” and a “monster” and an “asshole” in the film, its director James Crump devotes a sizable chunk of the sub-one-hour run time simply to showing the artist’s manic, pop-tracked videos and ominous monster machines. Unlike large swaths of the indistinguishable stuff at virtual fairs and online viewing rooms, Wolfson’s best-known works—Female Figure, Raspberry Poser, Riverboat Song—have the power to titillate and excite even when seen on a small glowing screen.
And yet, sources say the subject is not pleased with the final product—nor are some of the other interviewees. Earlier this year, Artnet columnist Kenny Schachter reported that Wolfson, who sat for hours of interviews with Crump, disavowed his participation before the film’s release last week. Then, word got out that the artist had gone a step further. According to the film’s producer, Ronnie Sassoon, he had begun reaching out to other participants in the shock doc and asking them to withdraw statements they had made about him.
When pressed for details, Sassoon told me that, in late April, she and Crump received an email from curator Andrianna Campbell-LaFleur saying she was uncomfortable with commentary that she had provided in the film. (Five days later, Campbell-LaFleur once again emailed the filmmakers, this time cc’ing Wolfson himself.) The curator had wanted Crump to remove several lines in the film in which she recounts becoming so aggravated with Wolfson when they were students at the Rhode Island School of Design (“he seems to say he made a pass at me,” she said in the documentary) that she punched him in the face.
When reached by Wet Paint, Campbell-LaFleur said her relationship with the artist has been “limited to professional and respectful interactions” since their school days and she was surprised to see the clip included since Crump had agreed to remove it after she feared it could be taken out of context. “There are several people involved who believe that he has distorted their words with the intention of promoting and funding this project,” she said.
For her part, Sassoon resolved that she and Crump would not bend to pressure to edit out any commentary from the film. “We stand by everything in it,” she said. “The fact that Jordan doesn’t like it tells us that we did a good job portraying him.”
Wolfson did not respond to a request for comment through his gallery, David Zwirner.
COME ON IN, WE’RE DANGEROUSLY OPEN!
New York City is the center of the coronavirus crisis, and since mid-March, it’s been effectively shut down. Only essential businesses are operational, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that we’re “obviously a few months away at minimum” from reopening the city. That means that galleries are, for the most part, completely shut down. Apart from one, that is. A tipster sent Wet Paint a photo of Shin Gallery on the Lower East Side that shows a woman clearly working the front desk. “This gallery has had this poor girl come in and work every day since the shutdown started,” the tipster said. “She’s always sitting there when I walk by.” Gallery founder Hong Gyu Shin—the mysterious Korean dealer perhaps best known for bidding up to $124 million on a Francis Bacon triptych at Christie’s before losing out to Elaine Wynn—did not respond to an email. But according to the website, there is a show of work by Wayne Nowack up until Saturday. Yikes!
When the artist Matthew Wong died by suicide in October at the age of 35, it was a tragedy made even more heartbreaking by the fact that he left behind a suite of gorgeously melancholy paintings in his studio—a complete group of works that would be his last show. Wong had put the final touches on the paintings, worked out the details for the catalogue, and deliberated over the sequencing, finalizing the order over the summer. The works debuted at Karma, his New York gallery, last fall, putting on full display the massive talent that the art world had lost. As Roberta Smith said in her New York Times review of the Karma show, Wong was “one of the most talented painters of his generation.”
Smith also noted that none of the works were for sale. There was no talk of the artist’s market. But collectors with an eye toward speculation can only be held back on moral grounds for so long. By February, I got a text from an advisor asking where one could get a Matthew Wong, saying, “I have a client who’s going to have a heart attack if he doesn’t get one—he will pay, like, any price.” Now, that collector, and others clamoring for work, will have their chance. A flipper who is looking for a payday has consigned to Sotheby’s a small watercolor on paper two years after buying it at the artist’s first show at Karma in 2018—and just months after his tragic death. It’s the first time one of Wong’s works has come to auction. Undeterred by the optics, Sotheby’s gave the watercolor primo billing, slotting it first in its online Contemporary Art Day Sale, which is live for bidding until May 14. As of press time, 13 bids had already been lodged for the watercolor (one literally as this column was being edited), and the price hit $19,000—$4,000 above its high estimate, with a full week left to go.
BADER’S BETTER FAIR
When Frieze New York‘s online edition “opened” to VIPs on Wednesday, untold thousands logged in and fought their way through gee-whiz gadgetry and slow-load welcome videos for the glory of seeing a pre-sold $150,000 Avery Singer work on paper float on a computer screen. But for those a little exhausted by the breathless bluster that now must accompany what are—lest we forget!—just websites with pictures on them, a welcome reprieve has come in the form of a project called Inventory, a pared-down model for online art sales that lets emerging artists easily offload work that’s been collecting dust (and costing money) in storage. The interface is clean, creating a casual way to see some really terrific work by the 20 cool-kid artists in the initial offering, including Anna-Sophie Berger, Dawn Kasper, Kon Trubkovich, Ajay Kurian, and Spencer Sweeney.
Perhaps the appealing aesthetic is due to the fact that Inventory is the brainchild not of an art dealer or market theorist, but of the artist Darren Bader. One could be forgiven for thinking that “Darren Bader makes an art fair” is an elaborate conceptual artwork, given the fact that much of his previous work has poked fun at the absurdities of the art market. (For Art Basel Miami Beach in 2012, the artist gave his dealer Andrew Kreps a work to sell called pretty face, which came with this official description: “The work can be anyone at anytime, anywhere, as long as s/he has a pretty face.”) But Bader assured us in an email that Inventory is not a new spin on such Baderian satire, but rather a real effort to help his fellow artists and their struggling galleries. “Although sometimes known for my puckish penchants, I believe in our community as a vital, collegial, and compassionate one,” he said.
Congrats to our first repeat winner: Meredith Darrow! The art advisor—and quiz master who correctly identified the Willem de Kooning statue on Maja Hoffmann‘s Zurich lawn waaaaay back at the start of March—was the first to correctly identify both the person in the photo and the work on the wall. The rock legend is Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and on the wall is a work by Richard Prince—it’s one of his “Band Paintings.” Runners-up who emailed correct answers within a few minutes of Darrow were the artist Edward Holland and the dynamic duo of Annie Roff and Angela Kunicky, who run things over at Mr. Keet—better known as the studio operation of one Urs Fischer.
Here’s this week’s clue. This is a close up of a work. What is the work and where, specifically, is it?
First person to email [email protected] with the full correct answer gets an extremely rad shout-out in the best art gossip column on the wild, wild internet.
Lehmann Maupin secured New York representation of the fiercely sought-after South African artist Billie Zangewa and debuted her new works at Frieze New York online … the artist Coco Young has launched Cinema Quarantine, a way to watch 15 video works by the likes of Violet Dennison, Rachel Rose, Korakrit Arunanondchai, and others … Fotofolio has launched a new website where you can purchase its delightful editions of artist-made postcards, complete with stamps, to send from your isolation pods—just in time to save the U.S. Postal Service … curator Brooke Wise got Jamian Juliano-Villani, Brian Calvin, Julie Curtiss, Robin F. Williams, Raymond Pettibon, and Chloe Wise to contribute drawings to “The Fine Art Quarantine Coloring Book,” which is available to print out—and give to your kid to keep them entertained for hours!—with a suggested donation to Meals on Wheels.
*** Senator Kamala Harris video-chatting in front of a Banksy print *** Patrons finally back outside Clandestino, the beloved art hang in Dimes Square, which is now open for takeout *** artist Eliza Douglas in another of those weird, captionless Balenciaga Instagrams *** Helen Marden posting about how she and her husband, artist Brice Marden, really enjoyed the Harmony Korine stoner comedy The Beach Bum *** …And that’s it! Everyone stay home! Even you, Shin Gallery front desk person! ***
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