Quentin Tarantino May Be Getting a Raw NFT Deal, a Storied Collector Is Locked in Her Townhouse, and More Juicy Art-World Gossip
Plus, which veteran dealer is joining Allan Schwartzman's art-advisor army? And who wore what to the top art-world Halloween parties? Read on for answers.
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]
I am shocked to report that NFT.NYC, the self-described “Leading Annual Non-Fungible Token Event” held this week in (gasp) Times Square, has been fun on par with Art Basel Miami Beach or Frieze Week.
Until very recently, I assumed anyone in the crypto sphere would be either dorks in their basements or bros with bottle service at 1 Oak. I was aghast to find that the receptions have been as glamorous, the free drinks as abundant, and the parties as star-studded as any self-respecting art-world pilgrimage.
One such star has been the talk of the town since announcing his foray into the NFT game: the auteur director Quentin Tarantino, who revealed he would be auctioning seven NFTs of the original manuscript of his seminal 1994 film Pulp Fiction.
This unlikely development caused Wet Paint to wonder: Do NFT platforms really represent a better deal for artists than movie studios or galleries? Does Tarantino—or any of the many other film directors and artists diving headfirst into this new space, for that matter—know exactly what they’re signing away?
At Tarantino’s surprise reveal with platform Secret Network at Neuehouse on Tuesday morning, there was a noticeably pregnant moment between him and NFT artist Lady Phe0nix, one of the moderators.
Tarantino noted, to virulent audience applause, that in three years he will secure the rights to his 1997 film Jackie Brown. “It’s a situation where 20 years later, I get to own the negative,” he said, alluding to the middleman position that film studios often play when a filmmaker sells a script. After the applause died down, Lady Phe0nix interjected with some advice: “Sovereignty is the hallmark of the space. Make sure that when you’re making NFTs in this market, you’re doing so in a sovereign way.”
Silence from Tarantino ensued, followed by an unconvincing sounding, “Uh-huh.”
To be totally honest, I’m in Tarantino’s boat here. I don’t really understand what differing rights accompany one NFT sale or platform over another. However, a few sources got in touch to say that Tarantino may not be aware of all the terms and conditions surrounding “his” NFT drop. (Did they come to me because they believe Quentin Tarantino reads Wet Paint and this is the best direct line good samaritans have to him? Who can say!)
Tarantino first learned about NFTs about a year and a half ago and immediately recognized their potential. He had the original, handwritten Pulp Fiction script sitting in a binder in his office and knew that he didn’t want to sell it or lock it away in a glass case in a museum. “Doing it this way… I think it’s an exciting thing,” he said.
Since the director doesn’t know how to mint NFTs himself, he is using a platform called Secret Network to do it. That’s where the concern comes in. The particular smart contract used by Secret Network may not be transferable to other blockchains. That means (bear with me) that Quentin’s NFTs may only be able to trade on Secret Network’s platform. If that platform stagnates or goes away, so would Quentin’s NFT.
There’s one way that Tarantino’s NFT deal could also mirror what’s held him back from owning his own movies. If Secret Network mints the NFTs itself, rather than Quentin’s own custodial wallet, there may not be a clear and definitive line back to him, which could limit his capacity to benefit as the NFTs are traded. But if he and the network have agreed on terms that make him the primary beneficiary for good, it would be one of the highest-profile cases yet of NFTs living up to their alleged potential to rebalance the scales of power in favor of creators in all genres.
A rep for Secret Network did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Time will tell if it’s all pulp fiction or if the artist really is in charge of his own ship.
IS CHRISTOPHE DE MENIL LOCKED IN HER OWN TOWNHOUSE?
Last month, bizarre headlines started cropping up in New York gossip rags like, “Friends fear art-world heiress has been cut off from world by daughter” and “NYC Socialite Allegedly Being Imprisoned in Own Home by Daughter.”
The stories lay out a similar premise: that oil heiress Christophe de Menil has been kept in her Upper East Side townhouse against her will by her daughter Taya Thurman (who happens to be the half-sister of Tarantino’s muse, Uma). The alleged mistreatment was brought to light by de Menil’s friend Alina Morini, who had been living with her at the townhouse and who is now seeking to sue Thurman in New York Supreme Court.
Allow me to back up. The daughter of Dominique and John de Menil, founders of the Minimalist art temple the de Menil Collection in Houston, Christophe is a member of one of America’s most prominent art-collecting families (the New York Times dubbed them “the Medici of Modern Art“).
In 1959, Christophe married Buddhism expert Robert Thurman and later gave birth to their daughter, Taya. Taya went on to marry Christopher Snow and they had three kids together, including prominent downtown artist Dash Snow, who died of a drug overdose in 2009.
The Daily Mail reports that Taya Thurman and de Menil’s relationship grew tense when de Menil paid for Dash to go to rehab. But it soured even further after Morini, a friend of de Menil, moved into her Upper East Side townhouse six years ago. In March 2021, Morini was arrested outside the home for trespassing—a sting she alleges was set up by Thurman in her quest to gain financial control over her mother.
Thurman’s lawyer, Sheila Tendy, dismissed the allegations out of hand. “We believe this frivolous lawsuit is a ploy intended to influence other legal proceedings,” she told Wet Paint, referring to Morini’s trespassing arrest. “No actual complaint was filed, so there is not an active case at this time.”
A quick look through the federal court database PACER proved this to be true. But Morini’s camp says it’s not for lack of trying. Her lawyer Robert Hartman alleges that Thurman has evaded being served not one, not two, but “at least three” times.
“If they had a defense, they would accept service and reply,” he said. Hartman did not immediately respond to a query about whether he or his client had alerted the authorities about their concerns for de Menil’s welfare.
The summons includes a handwritten letter from de Menil dated March 2021 asking for Morini to return to her place of residence. “I, Christophe De Menil, want Alina Morini to live with me, in my home,” it reads. “She lives with me for 5-6 years. Nobody influences me; in this statement.”
Also in the initial summons notice is a letter from photographer Nico Iliev, another friend of de Menil’s, testifying that Thurman forced her mother to revise her will in 2020. “I got involved because it would weigh on my conscience if I did not try to help her,” he told Wet Paint, describing the situation as “heart-wrenching.”
The last time he saw de Menil, back in the spring, he said: “She actually asked me to help her, the last time I was leaving her house. [She said,] ‘Please help me, you’re coming back tomorrow right?’ As I was being escorted out, my eyes were tearing because I knew I wasn’t going back.”
Augusto Arbizo has left Van Doren Waxter after 22 years to join Allan Schwartzman‘s growing army of art advisors … a piece by artist duo Wickerham + Lomax was recently installed at Maison Margiela in Soho … Virgil Abloh DJ’d completely pro bono at the afterparty for Ebony Haynes‘s new David Zwirner offshoot, 52 Walker … Mitchell-Innes & Nash is very cannily hosting a group show in the penthouse of the building that houses Instagram‘s corporate offices in San Francisco, featuring work by Pope L., Nancy Graves, and Kiki Kogelnik … Collector Wendi Deng Murdoch showed up at Zero Bond for New York’s new mayor Eric Adams‘s Election Day party … Caroline Polachek and Pussy Riot performed at the party thrown by Lil Miquela creator Trevor McFedries for his cryptocommunity, Friends With Benefits … author (and Artnet News contributor) Roxane Gay has been made president of the board of Performance Space New York …
WET PAINT IN THE WILD
This week, I decided it would be fun to show, not tell who I’ve spotted around the city for a new section called “Wet Paint in the Wild.” Going forward, I invite you all to participate. Send me photos of the artists, dealers, gallerists, and regular old celebs you see around your city, either via email at [email protected] or on Instagram (tag me @anniesalright).
Without further ado: my photos from Halloween weekend at Journal Gallery’s cat-themed party for Oliver Clegg‘s upcoming show “We Cat”, and Chloe Wise and Carly Mark’s party at Chapel Bar.
WET PAINT QUESTIONNAIRE
Last week, I asked my dear readers to answer this question: what is a work of art you consider overrated, and one you consider underrated? As promised, the keenest responses are below.
Jameson Johnson, editor-in-chief of the Boston Art Review and communications director at MIT List Visual Arts Center, submitted that anything by Virgil Abloh is overrated (except for his free DJ sets, Jameson!). His traveling mid-career retrospective “Figures of Speech” is like “the traveling Cirque du Soleil of art exhibitions—it felt like every major city was getting its own version of the show too little too late.”
As for underrated? “Sandrine Schaefer, Lavaughan Jenkins, Luther Price, Renee Green, Furen Dai, and so many more have shaped Boston and beyond.”
Curator Lolita Cros offered up her list of underrated artists: Nancy Holt, Lesley Schiff, Coreen Simpson, and “two years ago I would’ve said Lorraine O’Grady but the world finally caught up to her.”
Daisy Sanchez, independent curator and gallery assistant at Theta, identified Concetto Spaziale (1955) by Lucio Fontana and Stones Thrown (1956) by On Kawara as underrated pieces of art, and slammed Three Flags (1958) by Jasper Johns, writing, “Enough! Johns’s flag is not a site of resistance, but one of recognition... Three Flags now assumes the iconic status of its subject.” (The question of whether there is a silent majority of people who are actually profoundly apathetic about Jasper Johns, the Boomer sacred cow, is a subject for another column.)
Critic Domenick Ammirati decried Leonardo Da Vinci‘s The Last Supper as overrated, and shouted out the The Metronome in Union Square as an underrated piece of public art: “When smoke used to come out of the hole: that’s when NYC was at its peak.”
Hilde Lynn Helphenstein, the voice behind @jerrygagosian, joined the Robert Nava-hater bandwagon for her overrated artist. As for underrated talents? “People who are such good story tellers that they can convince people to open up their wallets and buy this shit…aka art dealers,” she said.
And that’s that on that. My question for next week: Will NFTs still exist in the art world five years from now? How about 15 years from now?
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