Will Scandal-Plagued Diddy Offload His Marquee Art Holdings?—and More Juicy Art World Gossip

Plus, meet the art world's favorite professional party planner.

Sean "Diddy" Combs a (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)

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].


We are all familiar with the “three D’s” that drive collectors to liquidate their art holdings: debt, divorce, and death. Over the past several weeks, a certain collector (with three Ds in his name) has become the subject of a Homeland Security investigation, amid allegations of human trafficking, and many in the art trade have been speculating if another (non-D) problem might bring some major pieces to market: legal bills. We are talking, of course, about Diddy, the trailblazing rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur born Sean Combs.

It has been six years since Diddy made a splash in the auction world, buying Kerry James Marshall’s Past Times (1997) for $21.1 million at a Sotheby’s evening sale. At the time, Marshall’s longtime dealer Jack Shainman told the New York Times, “I know that this work has found a home in a collection with purpose and an eye towards preserving legacy.”

But there are now five civil lawsuits filed against Diddy claiming that he has violated human-trafficking laws, on top of the ongoing federal investigation, and the “I’ll Be Missing You” hitmaker will almost certainly be shelling out a small fortune to attorneys. (The musician has denied any wrongdoing.)

However, Diddy’s art advisor since 2010, Maria Brito, told me in an email, “I am in touch with Sean. I don’t think he plans on selling anything. He hasn’t mentioned that to me at all.”

But let’s say that Diddy eventually decides that he does want to increase his cash reserves. What art could he sell? In addition to the Marshall, it is known that he purchased a classic Tracey Emin neon in 2010, when it was valued at $95,000. He also has works by Random International, the creative studio behind the “Rain Room,” and the South African sculptor Brett Murray.

I asked a few advisors to weigh on how much Diddy might be able to drum up quickly.

“I think he’d be pretty fortunate to get out of it what he paid for it,” advisor Todd Levin told me about the marquee Marshall. His “market was really buoyant at the time, it was pre-Covid. We’re in a really different time now, and Kerry’s market is a singularity within the market. I don’t know that his prices have changed a whole lot for exceptional works since then.”

Levin revealed that residentially scaled secondary market paintings of top quality by Marshall have sold in the past year in the $15 million range, and that Diddy might have more luck selling this larger, multi-panel work privately than bringing it to auction. “Breaking even would be a win,” he said

Levin had more hope that the value of Emin neons has appreciated with time, and gave a range of $100,000 to $150,00 for the one Diddy owns, which spells out a line of poetry: “I listen to the ocean and all I hear is you.”

Another prominent advisor agreed that the value of Emins has increased. “I think people are taking her work a little more seriously outside of London now that she’s doing more painting in recent years,” this person said.

So, if those expert appraisals are correct, Diddy could sell two works and walk away with $16 million. That would go a long, long way toward legal bills that will surely run well into seven figures.


Julia Cooke at Lucien. Photo by Annie Armstrong.

Remember two years ago, when the Dimes Square bubble was burst by a thinkpiece firing squad? The drinks certainly still get poured at Clandestino for thirsty members of the art world, but the scene has decentralized a great deal since then.

However, at least one figure who from that heady moment has found a way to keep its reckless camaraderie alive. I presume that, by now, you have met Julia Cooke, but if you haven’t, allow me to introduce you. 

Reliably dressed in a winking tweed skirt-suit, the 31-year-old socialite is a behind-the-scenes figure who has slowly worked her way up the art world pecking order. I recently met up with her for dinner at Lucien, where she hosts twice a week, to hear about her ambitions among the art set.

“I mean, I want to be throwing David Zwirner‘s parties,” she laughed through her vape smoke. She’s on her way there. Many will tell you that, if a party is thrown by Cooke, it’ll be worth attending.

Cooke began throwing parties in a serious way in 2020 at a certain if-you-knew-you-knew TriBeCa loft belonging to artist Luca Dellaverson, offering “unlimited alcohol and unlimited drugs” every Friday night for two years. According to Dellaverson, “Sometimes Henry Taylor or someone would show up and draw at the kitchen table… The whole thing was very mysterious.”

At one point, the many-storied writer Cat Marnell also wandered in, and effective tapped Cooke to be New York’s next party-girl-in-residence after her own unparalleled tenure. “She’s like my little sister and I co-sign her to the entire universe,” Marnell told me, adding, “Julia Cooke is the human equivalent of Mac’s Club Deuce in South Beach: smokey and beloved, glamorous but laidback, and available for hardcore art world-adjacent partying until 5 a.m., 365 days a year.”

The comparison to the beloved Miami Beach spot lines up with her art-world origin story. Last November, Lomex gallery’s Alex Shulan was “really nervous” before heading down to Miami for his first presentation at Art Basel, and so he gave his old friend a call to help relieve him of the burden of throwing his afterparty.

“He told me to just do whatever I wanted,” said Cooke. “Throwing a good party is really just about good people and good music. I have a rotation of DJs I can hit up, and they’re just, like, always down.” Fierman’s director Skype Williams DJed the Lomex affair, which was thrown alongside buzzy fashion brand Raimundo Langlois, and a reliable cast of characters filed in, like advisor Daniel Oglander, dealer Ellie Rines, artists Jamian Juliano-Villani, Emma Stern, Chloe Wise, Borna Sammak, Ser Serpas, and more.

“She knows a lot of people from a lot of different scenes, and she puts herself at the center of them,” Shulan said of Cooke.

Beyond just throwing Lomex’s party, she sat at its Basel booth for a couple days, becoming a face that art types would recognize. Her tentacles have since crept slowly uptown.

In February, the veteran New York dealer Petzel hired her to throw a party for his group show curated by Simon Denny at his Upper East Side location. At the new club Gonzo on Saint Mark’s Place, members of the establishment art guard showed up, as well as upstart downtowners, many of them mistakenly telling the doorman they were there for “pretzel.”

Along with working on those kind of one-off events, Cooke also throws regular parties under the name “Club Cooke” with artist friends like Precious OkoyomonDese Escobar, Jeffrey Joyal, and Genevieve Goffman. I heard one may be happening this weekend, in fact. Perhaps I’ll see you there?


Courtesy a tipster.

Embattled art advisor Lisa Schiff has found the time to join TikTok as she navigates her ongoing legal and financial issues… Restaurateur Keith McNally seems to have his eye on opening a restaurant in Los Angeles, and I can name at least 20 gallerists who would jump for joy if he did… Is that an Alex Katz painting I spy hanging in Kendall Jenner’s house?… Luxury wristwatch platform Dimepiece and watch dealership Foundwell are selling a Cartier Tiny Tank that belonged to dealer Mary Boone, and there’s a rumor that it may have been one of two that belonged to her… Former gallerist and Forge Project co-founder Zach Feuer has begun auctioning off items from his art collection to sponsor Palestinian families who wish to flee Gaza, starting with a Dana Schutz drawing… Is that UCCA Center for Contemporary Art‘s director Phil Tinari I see walking for Hermès in Shanghai? I’d like to see more stunt-casting from museum professionals, please…


Artist Jeff Koons and his collector smile for a photo.

Jeff Koons and Dakis Joannou. Photo by Katya Kazakina.

My party shoes were at the cleaners this week, so I asked my trusted colleague Katya Kazakina to fill me (and you) in on what went down at the New Museum’s annual gala. Here’s what she had to say.

A Nor’easter hit New York just in time for the New Museum’s spring gala this past Wednesday, but the art world seemed as insulated from real-life cataclysm as ever. Neither high winds nor heavy rain dampened the festive mood at Casa Cipriani, which was adorned with decadent flower arrangements.

The event, honoring artists George Condo and Mickalene Thomas, brought out museum directors, trustees, and star artists. Jeff Koons gave a bear hug to Greek collector Dakis Joannou. Leonardo DiCaprio and Andres Serrano took turns chatting with Condo. The Met’s Max Hollein and the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Thelma Golden, both in the middle of big expansion projects (just like the New Museum), worked the room. Advisor Amy Cappellazzo, a cellphone pressed to her ear, hid in the corner, probably closing deals. Artist-couple Rachel Feinstein and John Currin arrived late, looking thoroughly drenched.

There were many speeches and a live auction conducted by former Sotheby’s dynamo Gabriela Palmieri. Musician Deon Jones brought the crowd to its feet after a course of salmon with leek sauce. A commissioned portrait by Marilyn Minter fetched $105,000; then another one was sold to the underbidder for $100,000. Someone got a weeklong Ionian Sea cruise aboard Joannou’s Koons-designed yacht, Guilty, for $115,000, which seemed like a pretty good deal.

The evening raised $2.1 million for the museumConsidering all the headwinds, it was smooth sailing.

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