Wet Paint: Libbie Mugrabi’s Legal Issues Multiply, Art Advisor Appears to Photoshop Herself Into Instagram Snaps, & More Art-World Gossip
Which elusive artist is showing their first work in decades? What's the latest power gallery to open a Paris outpost? Read on for answers.
Every week, Artnet News Pro brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops reported and written by Nate Freeman. If you have a tip, email Nate at [email protected]
THE ROLLER COASTER PANDEMIC LIFE OF LIBBIE MUGRABI
Last Saturday, Libbie Mugrabi, the ex-wife of mega-collector David Mugrabi, posted what seemed like an innocuous-looking Instagram from the Water Mill home she won in the divorce, lounging on the couch under a painting from Richard Prince’s “After Dark” series.
In fact, the post could be interpreted as a coded message. This was, after all, the same couch, under the same Richard Prince, where she reportedly found her husband naked with another woman. Libbie Mugrabi, perhaps, was sending a signal: She was not yet done with David Mugrabi.
View this post on Instagram
Sure enough, days later, her attorneys filed documents in Manhattan Supreme Court to reopen her divorce proceedings, despite settling last year. (No figure was made public but a source told Avenue that she “asked for $100 million.”) The papers have since been sealed, but the New York Post took a peek and found that the latest plot twist in this saga hinges on David’s agreed-upon transfer of works by Warhol and Basquiat to Libbie. According to Libbie’s camp, the works arrived damaged—and thus worth considerably less than their court-assigned value.
Now, Wet Paint can reveal that’s just the latest legal drama ensnaring Ms. Mugrabi. Somehow, hosting an indoor, no-mask, peak-pandemic party in Miami where she reportedly climbed on top of a Damien Hirst statue was not the most memorable Libbie Mugrabi moment of the last year.
In March, she was sued by Dr. Kathryn Smerling, the Upper East Side psychotherapist who, according to court papers, took Libbie on as a client in September 2019. Smerling’s previously unreported complaint alleges that Libbie neglected to pay for her sessions in November, December, January, or February. Smerling now wants her client to make good on nearly $10,000 in therapy bills wracked up at the peak of her divorce proceedings.
In a statement, Ken Jewell, an attorney for Libbie Mugrabi, said that Smerling has been paid $40,000 to make a calendar for the joint custody arrangement, but did not deliver even that.
“Ms. Mugrabi contests the bill as inflated for the amount of work performed, and she is looking forward to the case being dismissed to the extent it has not already been settled,” Jewett said in the statement.
The suit comes after a previously reported suit alleged that Libbie also skipped out on months of rent, with her former landlord alleging that she owes $569,504.25 in unpaid bills. (In the latest divorce filing, per the Post, Libbie claims David failed to pay his “support obligation for at least the five months” before she signed the separation agreement.)
Plus, there’s the matter of a certain podcast appearance that has made the rounds in the last few weeks. Libbie went on “Artlife with Avery Andon“—yes, that Avery Andon, the brother and dealer for that artist with all the charisma of a board game, Alec Monopoly—and betrayed zero remorse for throwing an indoor rager in December, but recoils when she hears that her pod host has antibodies.
When Andon noted that COVID “has disproportionately affected the lower class, the server industry, the hospitality industry, they’re getting crushed,” she responds with a laugh, “Are they? I don’t know, nobody wants to give me a discount on any service.”
But nothing beats this exchange:
Mugrabi: There’s a woman by the name of Marina Abramović…
Andon: Yeah, of course, one of the best performance artists in the world, ever.
Mugrabi: Oh, no no—is she… an artist?
Andon: Yeah, she’s a performance artist.
Mugrabi: She is?
Andon: Yeah, or am I thinking of someone else?
Mugrabi: Maria? Maybe Maria. She’s very goth-looking to me.
Andon: Marina Abramović is a performance artist.
Mugrabi: She has black hair…
Andon: Yeah, Marina Abramović is a performance artist.
Mugrabi: I didn’t know she was an artist.
Andon: You have some homework to do!
Nothing like having Marina Abramović mansplained to you by Alec Monopoly’s brother.
Mugrabi did not respond to a request for comment, and her lawyer said on the phone that he could not comment now that the court documents had been sealed. Lawyers for Smerling did not respond to a request to comment.
EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT PHOTOSHOP
Let’s cut to the chase here—art advisor to the stars Maria Brito has, it might appear, been photoshopping herself into pictures of art galleries, and then posting the pictures on her Instagram. A tipster directed Wet Paint to her feed, and while some posts appear to show an actual human present in a white cube, others are a lot less clear.
Take this photo of Brito, whose clients have included Diddy, Gwyneth Paltrow, and celebrity trainer Tracey Anderson, at Gagosian. If you’re scrolling through the feed double-tapping rapid style, such a picture might not look off to you. But then you look at her heels, and… well, they’re not quite on the ground.
Same deal with a snap from the Ugo Rondinone show at Barbara Gladstone—the shoes float oh-so-slightly above the concrete floor, placing the image somewhere in the uncanny valley. Maybe she’s doing it for scale? Maybe she knows people are more likely to engage with an image of an artwork if there is a woman standing next to it?
One can’t be faulted for looking at Brito at the Carol Bove show at David Zwirner and thinking, “Is this picture real?”
Regarding Brito in front of a Keith Haring, the mind goes to a place of self-reflection. Is Maria Brito really, truly everywhere? Am I truly anywhere? Does anything matter?
Think about it… If Maria Brito wasn’t physically standing in front of this Frank Stella, but her 138,000 followers think that she is, who am I to say she was not physically there?
Brito, for her part, maintains she was most certainly there. “Let them comment whatever they want!” she told Wet Paint. “I was in all those shows and I have tons of pictures to prove it. Not new in this biz. 12 years and counting. If there’s anyone who sees all the shows in NYC, and the galleries know, that’s me. Love my haters. LOL.”
We have winners! But not too many winners—once again, the Quiz HQ hit readers with a bit of a trick question. The image was not Martin Kippenberger’s Paris Bar (1991), a depiction of the famous Berlin watering hole that once hung on the boîte’s wall but was sold to Charles Saatchi to pay off debts, and then auctioned off by Saatchi in 2009, when it was bought by the house’s owner François Pinault. (We understand the confusion: that one just went back on view at Monsieur Pinault’s new museum.) Alas, it was actually Daniel Richter’s new version of the work, Paris Bar, 2. Version (2011), which is still hanging on the wall at Paris Bar, the backdrop of many a wine-soaked evening.
Here are the winners: Brussels-based curator Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte; collector and patron Scott Lorinsky—who happens to be a host on this week’s edition of Nota Bene, check it out; Dan Desmond, executive director of the Blue Rider Group at Morgan Stanley; Suzanne Geiss, founder of the Suzanne Geiss Company and board president of Performance Space New York; Mary Rozell, global head of the UBS Art Collection; the artist Victor de Matha; and Winter Street Gallery co-founder George Newall.
Here’s this week’s quiz: Who is the notable person here and who made the work behind them?
Send guesses to [email protected]. Winner get hats and bragging rights, forever.
… Run, don’t walk: The first new work by Cady Noland in decades has been secretly installed, by Noland, at Galerie Buchholz in New York on the occasion of Noland’s new book with Rhea Anastas, The Clip-On Method … Per Skarstedt is expanding his empire to the City of Light, opening an outpost on the hot hot hot Avenue Matignon, right across from Christie’s, and poached Maria Cifuentes from Phillips Paris to run the shop … Still House artist Alex Perweiler has opened a Los Angeles project space called Manuel Arts in a casita behind a Los Feliz home—the first show was Brook Hsu, and now there’s a Dozie Kanu presentation up, roll through …. The real estate heiress and collector Jordana Reuben is flipping a 2020 Anna Weyant drawing she bought from Nino Mier, and the flipping is happening at Phillips …
… The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University—a truly world-class institution at a school that educated yours truly—has acquired a painting by Korakrit Arunanondchai … Julian Schnabel will have the first post-pandemic show at the Brant Foundation, it opens in September … Artist Andrew Kuo is publishing a book about the NBA, The Joy of Basketball, with his Cookies podcast co-host Ben Detrick .… Wildly popular West Village cocktail bar Dante is opening a space in Aspen, spitting distance from all the galleries …. Streaming continuously on Ramiken’s website is Transfer Station (2021), an oddly compelling work of Land art, which also functions as a video-work-slash-performance, by the intriguing emerging artist Plano Lee: a feed of the dump across the street from the gallery, trucks churning waste all day and night, and Ramiken founder Mike Egan says the “best times to view the most action are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.”
*** “Junk bond king” Michael Milken at the Mets game Monday, in the owner’s box with mega-collectin’ Amazins head honcho Steve Cohen, Mets beat the Cubs 5–2 *** Artist Pat Steir and publisher Joost Elffers at Bar Pitti, with actor John Turturro a table over *** Brian Donnelly at Barclays watching the Nets win, which makes sense, as the Nets are kind of like the KAWS of the NBA, just think about it *** Inigo Philbrick baby mama Victoria Baker-Harber back on Made in Chelsea *** Jake Gyllenhaal at Pastis, still rocking the mask, do you, king *** Tomás Saraceno off the artist roster at Esther Schipper *** Emmanuel Perrotin at the rooftop party he hosted at Galerie Perrotin’s Orchard Street digs as New York ended all restrictions after 15 months—once again, no need for virtual events anymore *** Richard Prince at One Gun Ranch in Malibu to celebrate the potent seedlings he planted last fall, now blossomed and smokable, with Jonas Wood and Benny Blanco lounging on the dope couches Prince made with collector and designer Darren Romanelli ***
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