A Very Respected Dealer Sold a Forged Pettibon, a Peek Inside Billie Eilish’s Burgeoning Art Collection, and More Juicy Art-World Gossip
Plus, which in-demand artist duo enjoyed a night out at the opera? And which gallery poached a top director for its New York location?
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].
SADIE COLES MAKES WAVES
The transactions we see at art fairs and in galleries—you know, the quaint ones where an artist makes a work and brings it to their dealer, who sells it to a collector—are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the art market. Many works travel, Rube Goldberg-style, through a series of guys-who-know-guys and friends-of-friends on their way from one buyer to another, all behind closed doors (or, these days, behind screens). Everyone takes a cut along the way.
This dynamic was unveiled yet again in the indictment of fallen art star Christian Rosa, who was busted by the feds for selling fake works purported to be by his erstwhile mentor Raymond Pettibon. As Wet Paint first revealed back in January, Rosa allegedly took partially finished works from Pettibon’s studio, finished them himself, forged the elder artist’s signature, and sold them as genuine articles. (The scheme made him enough money, according to the FBI, to buy a house in California.)
The indictment laid out five works that Rosa peddled, which made their way from one buyer to another before a third stop on the chain brought one of them to a New York auction house, which flagged it as a potential fake.
Now, Wet Paint has learned about the chain of custody surrounding one of the botched Pettibons—and it involves the artist’s own dealer, Sadie Coles.
In 2017, a Los Angeles-based collector purchased what he believed to be a Pettibon wave painting (the hard-living artist’s most famous series, and the only kind hawked by Rosa) in a deal brokered by an art advisor. The seller, according to multiple sources, was none other than Coles, the eagle-eyed London dealer who has exhibited the artist’s work since 2000. Coles, sources say, got the piece in question from another dealer, Marc Jancou. (Its whereabouts before that are unclear.)
What the advisor who brokered the deal told Wet Paint about the work lines up with what has been reported about Rosa’s process creating the forged waves. “Back in the day there was a lot of partying happening and a lot of hangers-on and things would just disappear out of the studio,” the advisor said. “I think a half finished wave disappeared and someone ‘finished it.’”
The L.A. buyer—who could not be reached for comment—didn’t clock that the Pettibon wasn’t legit until they tried to consign it to Sotheby’s in spring 2020. Upset, the buyer went back to Coles and threatened to sue, leading them to settle out of court for the price of the work, according to one source. The wave is now apparently in the custody of the feds.
Coles did not respond to a detailed request for comment, nor did Jancou. Sotheby’s declined to comment.
All of this reminds me of how my mother raised me to literally wash my hands after handling cash and coins because of how many hands they pass through in a day. Let this act as a reminder to wash your hands after handling art, too. Lord knows where it’s been.
BILLIE EILISH, THE ART COLLECTOR?
Ever since the pop star’s meteoric rise, Billie Eilish has had an eye for the fine arts. She’s collaborated with Takashi Murakami extensively, she worked with Klaus Biesenbach to stage a piece of performance art at MOCA Los Angeles, and she’s been known to pop up at a museum benefit every so often. Now, he’s taking her art patronage a step further by building a burgeoning art collection.
Her first acquisition (that we know of): A charcoal drawing by up-and-comer Anna Park. The work, Intermission (2021), which mashes up flowers, teacups, and portraiture, was part of the 25-year-old artist’s sold-out debut at New York‘s Half Gallery this spring. (It takes a wunderkind to know a wunderkind.) As it turns out, Eilish is going to loan the work to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it’ll be featured in a group show in 2022. The price of the work isn’t confirmed, but it is firmly in the five figures.
Eilish let the cat out of the bag when she posted a photo of herself in front of the work to tease the release of her debut fragrance. Half Gallery’s Bill Powers quickly shared the post. “It’s a super exciting moment for Anna Park,” Powers told Wet Paint. “I’m so proud of her.”
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The 19-year-old Eilish has an estimated net worth of $30 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth—a website that I think is pretty much entirely made up by someone in their basement but offers the only ballpark I have access to at the moment. With that kind of cash, plus the good manners and savvy to loan her art to a museum out the gate, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Eilish emerge as an influential collector before too long.
The South Korean, Brooklyn-based Park has had a banner year of her own, with two sold-out solo shows: the one with Half Gallery and another at Blum & Poe in Tokyo, where her works were priced from $40,000 to $58,000.
Personally speaking, I’d love to see Eilish collect more work from emerging female artists, and one day visit the esteemed Billie Eilish Foundation. Until then, my ear will be to the ground for what other works the star might be snapping up.
Richard Kern, The Ion Pack, critic Natasha Stagg, and gallerist Alyssa Davis at the release of Sex Magazine’s new issue at Mast Books *** Wristwatch expert, Dimepiece founder, and former Sotheby’s staffer Brynn Wallner giving a talk at Phillips *** Photographer Farah Al Qasimi signing her new book Hello Future for fellow artists Rose Salane and Sara Cwynar at Company Gallery’s new downtown location *** Derek Fordjour and Devin B. Johnson out for an evening at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center *** Lucien Smith, artist and newly named director of Lobus‘s Cultural Innovation Lab, dining en plein air at Sant Ambroeus downtown ***
Nicodim’s new New York location has named Andréa Ormeño-Delphas its director, who joins from Mitchell-Innes & Nash … Alex Rojas has been tapped as a new director for Anat Ebgi after departing from Various Small Fires last month … Richard Prince is now selling marijuana seeds under his weed business, Katz + Dogg … the New York Academy of Art will honor 87-year-old Peter Saul at its fall Artists for Artists gala at Sotheby’s, with KAWS acting as chair for the evening … Daniel Arnold will release his first monograph through the Safdie brothers‘ film studio Elara Pictures (apparently Succession actor Nicholas Braun is quite excited, according to his Instagram)
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