Did a British Music Collective Rip Off Freeman and Lowe? Sotheby’s Cringey ‘Barbie’ Holiday Party Video, and More Juicy Art World Gossip

Plus, what sculptor just had a string of museum acquisitions? What's the current going rate for nude modeling in New York City?

Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, Colony Sound (2020). Courtesy of the artists.

Every week, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops. If you have a tip, email Annie Armstrong at [email protected].


“Good artists copy, great artists steal” is a quote that is often misattributed to Pablo Picasso. After working in art media for [redacted] years now, I’ve borne witness to many artists getting very angry and sharply litigious over others allegedly stealing their ideas. Remember Lynn Goldsmith versus the Andy Warhol Foundation? Patrick Cariou versus Richard Prince? Janine “Jah Jah” Gordon versus Ryan McGinley? I could go on. Tl;dr, artists don’t actually want you to steal from them, no matter what the laminated poster in your high school art class told you. 

Such is certainly true for Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, the artist duo known for their often dark and always daring immersive work that’s turned a Miami condominium into a meth lab, the modernist Buck House in Los Angeles into a hovel, and Marlborough London into a dystopian doctors office, all as part of their greater narrative of their “San San Universe,” the project that has come to define their partnership over the past decade. 

For the last 10+ years, unfortunately, artists that deal in the immersive have had to contend with the trend of commercial businesses trying their hand at creating immersive experiences, which can often chafe those who create them as a serious art form. Over the holidays, the British band SAULT launched “The Sault Experience” in London, and if you’ve ever even dipped a toe into the San San Universe, the imagery looked awfully familiar. 


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“About 10 separate people sent us an instagram reel that had a walkthrough of The Sault Experience,” Freeman told Wet Paint. “It was a little too close to past works of ours to seem like merely a coincidence.” 

Indeed, the band’s “experience,” which was launched to promote their world tour, had viewers walk in through a refrigerator door (which was done in Freeman and Lowe’s Hello Meth Lab in the Sun at Ballroom Marfa), to a sparse interior decorated only with cactuses in vitrines (as in Colony Sound), extremely decayed walls in a domestic space (extremely akin to Black Acid Coop), all connected by abandoned industrial passageways that look nearly identical to Bright White Underground

The artists won’t be pressing charges, but are keeping a keen eye out to see if the band attempts to travel their immersive experience anywhere in the new year. I mean, word to the wise: if you want to go see a Freeman and Lowe installation between exhibition times, just go to the sake bar Juku in New York’s Chinatown. Duh! 


I think we can all agree, the culture of corporate America is cringe. There’s no getting around that, even if you work in the art industry. I preface with that out of fairness, because I’m about to really lay into the particular brand of corporate cringe bred by Sotheby’s at the tail end of last year. One blessed tipster leaked me the video the C-suite staff premiered at their holiday party. Buckle your seatbelt, it’s “Barbie” themed.

The video—which was scrubbed from the Internet once the house found out I got my hands on it—opens with Brooke Lampley in a blonde wig, who is introduced by a Helen Mirren impersonator as “Artsy Barbie.” I snagged some screenshots of the video, which also featured EVP Benjamin Doller announcing that he was #BENOUGH and newbie auctioneer Phyllis Kao looking the part as auctioneer Barbie. I’ll let you see for yourself… 


Collector Lester Marks has so much art, he had to rotate the artwork that he keeps on his ceiling… Deidrea Miller, Christie’s longtime head flack, has parted ways with the auction house after three years… A string of sculptures by Rose B. Simpson has been acquired by a string of museums, such as the Pérez Art Museum, the Whitney, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the de Young, and LACMA… 



Jim Jarmusch dashing past B&H Dairy on Second Ave on New Year’s day *** Johanna Burton’s holiday party at MOCA Los Angeles drew quite the crowd, including Christina Quarles, Trulee Hall, Christine Sun Kim, and Mungo Thomson *** In fact, it seems like L.A. got all the good parties over the holidays, as the opening for the revamped Luna Luna carnival looked pretty spellbinding *** A NYFA listing reveals that $19 per hour is the current going-rate for nude models at the New York Academy of Art—not sure what that indicates about the current economic climate *** Anyone else a little surprised by the lack of art world people spotted on the new list of Jeffrey Epstein’s contacts? *** 

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