Inside Andre Sakhai’s Legal Troubles Over an Anna Weyant Painting, a Satanic Artist Protests Palm Sunday in L.A., and More Juicy Art World Gossip
Plus, what dealer was spotted reading a classic book on salesmanship on the subway? And what gallery is opening at an Atlantis resort in Dubai?
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].
TWO’S COMPANY, THREE’S A CROWD
Remember Andre Sakhai? For the uninitiated, he is a collector, and the son of Ely Sakhai, the notorious art dealer who was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for selling fake art to collectors while squirreling away the original piece and its Certificate of Authenticity. (Ely maintains his innocence, of course.) Andre is also the godfather to the child of convicted fraudster Inigo Philbrick—though Philbrick also screwed him over regarding the joint ownership of a Wade Guyton piece that Sakhai had bought a $350,000 stake in. Now, according to court documents acquired by Wet Paint, Sakhai is caught up in his own legal kerfuffle.
In a complaint filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York on February 9, a client of the Richard Golub firm, run by the noted—and somewhat infamous—lawyer to art stars like the Niarchos family, Pace Gallery, the Nahmads, and George Condo, is suing Sakhai over the partial ownership of a piece by (drumroll please) Anna Weyant.
It’s a complicated one, folks. The claims and counter-claims here give a look at the kinds of eye-watering machinations around today’s top stars—and the kinds of disputes that can arise from said machinations.
According to the complaint, Sakhai, through his company Aiden Fine Arts (which was operating under the name the Art Collection, and will hereafter be shortened to the acronym AFTAC), “abused and continues to abuse the corporate form by dominating and controlling the affairs and assets of AFTAC, freely transferring funds between AFTAC and [Andre Sakhai].” The complaint goes on to classify AFTAC as a “shell company” used “in order to advance [Sakhai’s] personal interests and not the legitimate business interests of AFTAC.” Adding some dramatic flair to otherwise dry legalese, the complaint claims that “defendants [Andre Sakhai] and AFTAC were and are alter egos of each other.”
Golub’s client, who is unnamed in the complaint, alleges that he purchased Anna Weyant’s portrait of fellow painter Cynthia Talmadge in May of 2022 for a total sum of $606,000, split three ways between another third party and Sakhai, with each collector shelling out around $200,000 for the piece.
This, it goes on to suggest, was all fine and well, until the fall auctions rolled around. The co-owners agreed to bring the piece to auction at Phillips London and split the proceeds (talk about a quick flip). Only problem? At auction time, the piece didn’t go crazy like other Weyant works historically have, and hammered for only £240,000, which came out to about £302,400 after fees (about $335,000 at the time)—considerably less than what they purchased it for.
The court documents then allege that Sakhai made away with the wire transfer from Phillips and left the other two parties hanging. Golub’s plaintiff is asking for no less than $110,816.48 to be returned to him.
That’s their side. On the other, last week Sakhai’s team filed a response to the complaint, denying the accusations about withholding the other two parties’ slice of the pie, summarizing that “any damages sustained by Plaintiff were caused wholly or in part by the acts and omissions of Plaintiff itself… all of which acts and omissions were beyond Defendant’s control.” In addition, Sakhai’s response stated that the plaintiff is not entitled to exemplary damages, as “defendants have at all times acted in good faith and with reasonable grounds for believing that their conduct was not wrongful, tortious, or unlawful.” (Sakhai also brought four counterclaims accusing Golub’s client of wrongfully withholding two other works in which AFTAC claims a stake.)
Put in layman’s terms, Sakhai basically told the other two parties their it’s their fault and they should go cry about it.
Whose account will win out? That’s for the law to decide. What I will say is that, even though I myself have added to the lore of Anna Weyant’s highly singular market trajectory, I find it pretty abominable how many people are flagrantly making a quick buck off of her. These documents suggest that all three owners of Cynthia are out a good chunk of change after trying to take her work to auction, so I certainly have some schadenfreude on behalf of Weyant, who recently went on Eileen Kelly‘s podcast and described feeling “like a racehorse” during auction season.
THE POWER OF THIS PAINTING COMPELS YOU
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Of all the bizarre cultural moments in American history, one of the most fascinating for me is the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. I am pretty envious of anyone who got to live through a time where baseless conspiracy theories about Rosemary’s Baby-style paganism were coming from the idiot fringes of society, versus now, where the kind of people slinging these charges are actually in government (see, the “QAnon caucus” in congress, etc).
In any case, over the weekend, some demonic doings of a more harmless type cropped up, involving a young painter named Joseph Herbert in Los Angeles.
For the God-fearing set, this weekend was Palm Sunday. After a service in Culver City, I received an alarmed missive from an unlikely corner of the culture: a woman named Tashna Shaw, who described visiting Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church when terror struck: “A teenager walked into our church yesterday and was super loud and unfriendly,” she said. “He walked right to the front and his friends started taking pictures of him holding a canvas depicting the devil…. It was a horrible experience and especially doing this on Palm Sunday is so horrible!!”
But don’t be too alarmed! A representative of the church said that no mass was interrupted, nor was there any corresponding possessions prompted by the painting’s presence in the church. So, while the painting (which, I must add, is titled Slay3r) may have been Satanic, it sounds as if there wasn’t all that much panic.
Like many a Satan-referencing artist before him (see: Leonora Carrington, and the like), Herbert seems to just have wanted to shake things up. The young hellion, who apparently works mainly in video art, told Wet Paint over email, “I like to explore the darkness of humanity in my work and the hypocrisy of us humans.”
Amen to that, brother.
— Arto Lindsay’s ghostwriter (@ineffablemimi) April 3, 2023
A new Twitter trend has brought back into our mind’s eye what is perhaps Jerry Saltz’s most cringe tweet of all time… Tribeca’s Margot Samel has added five new artists to their roster at once: Olivia Jia, Kris Lemsalu, Sarah Margnetti, Narcissister, and Stephen Polatch… The Guggenheim Museum has acquired My Home Is Where My Tipi Sits by Wendy Red Star… Serge Gainsbourg’s house in Paris is finally opening as a dedicated museum in September of 2023 after a false promise to open in 2022 (anticipate that Wet Paint will likely be on vacation the week of its opening)… Abso Lutely Productions, which has produced cult favorite television shows like Nathan for You and Tim and Eric, is lending Chloe Wise a hand in creating her new video work for Art Basel’s Parcours section this year… This year’s Herb Alpert Awards are taking place over Zoom, which I didn’t really think was still happening, but okay… Opera Gallery is opening a space in the new Atlantis the Royal resort in Dubai (you know, the one where Beyoncé played her first show in five years, to the dismay of pretty much all of her fans who don’t live in Dubai)… Apparently Jonas Wood and Pharrell both turned down Yusaku Maezawa‘s offer to go to Space…
Marina Abramovic gazed deeply into Miles Greenberg’s performance The Embrace at the opening of Faurschou New York *** Michael Govan, Gigi Hadid, Alex Israel, Jeff Koons, Zendaya, and Penelope Cruz flew out to celebrate the debut of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre in Mumbai, which opened last week with a group show curated by Jeffrey Deitch and Ranjit Hoskote *** LA VanDyke, Amanita‘s new director, reading salesperson lexicon How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling on the subway *** Rapper Tierra Whack was the guest of Amy Sherald at this year’s Tribeca Ball, where Naomi Watts, Michael Kagan, Wendy Olsoff, and, of course, Jonathan Travis, the king of Tribeca, held court *** Scott Rothkopf, Amy Cappelazzo, Scott Lorinsky, and Lily Snyder at CCS Bard’s annual gala, where their president Leon Botstein gave what was, anecdotally, one of the more moving speeches at a gala ***
? ⭐ CASTING CALL! ?️ ?
Last week, I put out the call for actors to play Richard Prince and Marcel Duchamp, who could also have the versatility to inhabit their respective alter-egos, John Dogg and Rrose Sélavy. Among the many suggestions, I feel confident that emeritus collections director Adrian Pobric‘s choices felt right: Daniel Radcliffe as Duchamp by day and Sélavy by night, and William H Macy as Dr. Prince and Mr. Dogg.
I’m putting the casting call on ice for a week, but in its stead, I ask you to ponder: Who in the art world could best survive on a desert island?
Email your responses to [email protected].
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