Wet Paint: NFT Collective Whines Over Cryptopunks Sale, Coveted Young Artist Joins Hauser & Wirth, & More Art-World Gossip
Which art dealer is sitting courtside at Knicks playoff games? What famed artist-made house hit the market? 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].
REVENGE OF THE CRYPTO NERDS
Love them or hate them—and believe you me, people do hate them!—NFTs have done one thing that unites disparate parts of the art market: make people rich. Sources said Christie’s owner François Pinault, even as he’s busy opening his new $200 million museum in Paris, has been keeping a watchful eye on the record-breaking sales of tokens, sending his son, Kering C.E.O. François-Henri Pinault, to watch the no-audience sale in person as the only soul in the skybox. (The billionaire’s son is oddly the perfect emissary to check out an NFT sale—he’s a secret tech nerd who decades ago taught himself to code in FORTRAN and COBOL.)
But there have been some growing pains on both sides as the centuries-old auction house embraces the medium of the future. The house’s lawyers have to grapple with a new kind of rambunctious and uncouth clientele that isn’t used to the old-world mores of the company founded by James Christie in 1766, and currently owned by a luxury goods billionaire.
Most of the time, when someone bids on art at auction, there is a human being on the other end of the telephone. Not so with NFTs—the entities that were registering to bid on a lot like Cryptopunks were often Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, or D.A.O.s, very unofficially organized groups of investors who pool money to buy digital artworks.
Christie’s lawyers were allegedly baffled by the prospect of giving a paddle to an unknowable cohort of ether hoarders. Hypothetically, such investors could be criminals, terrorists, members of military dictatorships, etc. Sources said that, even when a paddle is given to someone potentially shady—say, a member of the Saudi royal family standing in for the crown prince—the auction house can avoid legal issues if the lawyers can vet their identity. Not so with a D.A.O., which gives no information about the numbers or makeup of its membership.
But Christie’s made an exception for the Flamingo D.A.O. The legit-looking contingent was incorporated in October 2020, and has since focused solely on buying NFTs—the crew’s Twitter bio calls itself the “Medicis of NFT,” which, I mean, sure. But Flamingo’s air of exclusivity passed muster with the Christie’s council: The D.A.O. limited its number of members to 100 not to run afoul of the S.E.C., and made sure everyone was accredited, meaning they had at least a million bucks in the bank. Members also had to provide their passports and S.S.N.s, meaning—presumably!—no warlords or criminals allowed.
Not only did Christie’s allow them to bid, but the old-world auction house literally let the barbarians into the gates. Sources said the auction house extended an invitation to a Flamingo D.A.O. member who goes by G Money to take a tour of the sale preview the day before Cryptopunks hit the block. Noah Davis, the Christie’s specialist who became an art-world star overnight by orchestrating the $69 million Beeple sale, personally showed G Money around, hoping to convince the mysterious D.A.O. to bid the lot higher and higher. The anonymous Mr. Money is a known fan of the work—in January, he paid 140 ETH, or $176,000, for a single punk. And as far as we know, he was treated with the utmost respect—he said at the time that the Christie’s brass even referred to him exclusively by his absurd nom de crypto.
But the Ether-rich collector of intangible things later changed his mind. In an unhinged Twitter rant called “How Christies Fucked Up the Punks Auction,” he lashed out at the house for what he saw was an insufficient amount of attention given to the punks in the showrooms. While you can hang a Basquiat or a Haring, you can’t hang a Cryptopunk because… it doesn’t exist. And so the house came up with the idea of installing reproductions of the Punks in semi-hidden high-up places around the rooms, in a sort of reference to the street artist Invader.
This did not go over well with our man G Money.
“I wonder why someone might not think a tiny 4″ x 4″ piece tucked randomly in obscure corners is worth anything? You literally had ONE job: Find buyers,” he wrote on Twitter. “If I had no idea what a CryptoPunk was walking into the gallery beforehand, I sure as hell had no clue when I walked out.”
Davis—who’s become quite active on the Punks’ Discord chat channel, despite the self-acknowledged fact that he’s an outsider (his name on Discord is @NoahThePoseur)—wrote back with an thorough apology, explaining the reference to Invader and said he “devised the Easter Egg-stye Punk Hunt as a way to playfully present the Punks as sneaking into Christie’s.
“I know I’m technically a Christie’s suit, but I hope you know how hard I’m trying to be a kind of Punks evangelist from within this 300-year-old corporation,” he said on Discord.
The whole saga was eventually moot—the winner who paid $17 million in Ether for Cryptopunks was a contingent led by Haralabos Voulgaris, who has since tried to shit-talk your Wet Paint scribe on the internet, with varying degree of success—but it shows that the auction houses will need to bend over backwards to convince the new guard of crypto collectors to buy from them. In his rant, G Money threatened at one point to tell his D.A.O. to buy and sell works through online vendors, where the commission is a fraction of what Christie’s takes. He even threatened to do the worst thing possible: take his business to Sotheby’s.
Christie’s declined to comment. G Money did not respond to a DM.
CHRISTINA QUARLES GOES MEGA WITH HAUSER & WIRTH
In late 2019, around the time that a strange virus started making the rounds in the industrial city of Wuhan, the mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth went on a representation tear. Avery Singer, George Condo, Nicole Eisenman, and Henry Taylor all joined the gallery in quick succession in the last few months of 2019 and early 2020. And while new artist announcements, along with everything else, kind of went on pause there for a while in 2020, the Swiss-born mega-gallery is once again adding some of the world’s most illustrious art-makers to its roster. Last fall Frank Bowling came on board, and this spring Hauser added Cindy Sherman and Gary Simmons, two artists who left Metro Pictures, which will close later this year.
Now, Hauser has another new addition to the stacked roster: Christina Quarles, the 36-year-old phenom who currently has a blockbuster solo show at the MCA Chicago. They’ll rep her alongside her longtime London gallery Pilar Corrias, and the first show is at the New York Hauser space in the Fall of 2022.
“She is a very strong young painter doing something completely on her own,” Hauser partner Marc Payot said when reached on the phone by Wet Paint to confirm the rumor. “The way she paints the body, with today’s digital tools, between abstraction and figuration, it reminds me of Maria Lassnig, but I also think of Louise Bourgeois. Louise would say, ‘My body is a sculpture,’ and in Christina’s world that resonates quite a bit.”
The mega-gallery will also represent the artist in Los Angeles, meaning that she’s parting ways with Regen Projects, which added Quarles to the roster in 2018, giving her a show the next year.
(Quarles is no longer on the Regan Projects artists roster on its website.)
And broadly, it means big things for Quarles, one of the few artists who maintained her star-making trajectory throughout the pandemic. At auction she’s broken records again and again, and in December a painting sold for $655,200, nearly six times its high estimate. Her not-that-prolific output means that, on the primary market, only the world’s top collectors get a sniff of the waiting list. Last December, when your Wet Paint scribe was in Miami, we visited the de la Cruz Collection, and upon entering, Rosa de la Cruz lead us straight to a gallery upstairs to show us her most prized new possession: Quarles’s Don’t They Know? it’s the End of tha World (2020). It’s now hanging on the walls of the MCA Chicago. Expect that sort of thing to happen a lot.
Last week was too easy! A lot of people knew that the clue was a Josh Smith painting at the awesome Manhattan nightclub Paul’s Baby Grand. People like those paintings so much that someone tried to steal one once.
The first responders were many repeat Pop Quiz winners: Brussels-based curator Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte; collector and patron Scott Lorinsky; Dan Desmond, executive director of the Blue Rider Group at Morgan Stanley; William Leach, a former trusts, estates, and valuations coordinator at Phillips; Sarah Goulet, the owner of Sarah Goulet Communications; Cyprien David, exhibition coordinator at Gagosian Zurich; Krause Co. founder Molly Krause; Darrow Contemporary founder Meredith Darrow; See/Saw founder Ellen Swieskowski; and Andrew Reed, online sales associate at David Zwirner. There were more who got it right, but only the first ten responders get their name in print! Them’s the breaks!
Here’s another chance at Pop Quiz glory: Name the artwork here, its owner, and where it is installed!
Send guesses to [email protected]. You know the drill.
… Ignacio Mattos is in talks to run Estela-like restaurants at the forthcoming hotel in the Jarmulowsky Bank Building, the construction project that’s been happening in Dimes Square for nearly a decade … Downs and Ross is opening a project space in Tribeca, not in a storefront but in an honest-to-goodness apartment, on 65 Reade Street … The Los Angeles gallery shared by Mexico City’s House of Gaga and New York’s Reena Spaulings is leaving its longtime MacArthur Park space, which had dreamy views of one of the east side’s cooler lakes …
Jeremy O. Harris will be on the new season of Emily in Paris … White Cube now represents the South African artist Cinga Samson … One of the Andy Warhol NFTs sold at Christie’s for $1.17 million, with bidding coming in at the final seconds Thursday afternoon … Gary Simmons will curate a group survey at Rebecca Camacho Presents, the dealer’s eponymous gallery in San Francisco … The Bioscleave House, a wild East Hampton estate built by artists Madeline Gins and Arakawa, is back on the market for $975,000 … Anna Gray, Franklin Parrasch, and Carolyn Ramo are opening a gallery called Airfield at 26 Downs Street in downtown Kingston, New York—it opens Sunday, and it’s around the corner from epically delicious local eatery Lunch Nightly … The Estate of John Baldessari is now repped globally by Sprüth Magers, along with Mai 36 in Zurich and Galerie Greta Meert in Brussels—but no longer the artist’s longtime dealer during his lifetime, Marian Goodman Gallery in New York …
… Derek Blasberg and his partner, Nick Brown, are now parents to newborn twins, mazel tov! … The next run of the Oscars have been pushed back to March 27, 2022, which means that Larry Gagosian will have to push back his annual Oscars exhibition at the Beverly Hills space (always followed by dinner at Mr. Chow and an after-party at Gago’s Holmby Hills pad) to the Thursday when the art world is halfway around the world in Hong Kong for Art Basel, sigh, the whole circuit’s gonna be screwed up for years … The Instagram account for the HBO Max reboot of Gossip Girl has been placing select members of the media and art community on its Close Friends list in meta-experiment that will mirror the show’s anonymous dish-spreader, but so far the only content they’ve posted is a black screen informing their few Close Friend followers that they’ll read receipts—nice try GG, but you know there’s just one and only source into the scandalous lives of the art world’s elite, you know you love me, XOXO …
*** A smattering of heavy hitting artists and curators at the opening of Nicola Vassel’s new gallery in Chelsea, including Hank Willis Thomas, David Byrne, Rashid Johnson, Sheree Hovsepian, Fred Eversley, Ming Smith (who has the show at the gallery), Hall Chase, Tschabalala Self, Arthur Jafa, as well as collectors Jeanne Greenberg and Peter Soros *** The downtown scene decamping to Long Island City to celebrate Alex Eagleton’s show at The Journal Gallery with a dinner at Mina’s, the beloved restaurant at MoMA PS1—artists present included Leelee Kimmel, Chloe Wise, Louie Eisner (with his girlfriend, designer Ashley Olsen), Rachel Rossin, all eating delicious food from the master Mina Stone ***
*** Lucien Smith at Casa Cipriani to premiere a new short film made to launch a shoe he designed for Adidas Originals, keep your eyes peeled for a cameo by yours truly *** Takeshi 6ix9ine on Broadway and Broome, just sort of hanging out on a stoop in SoHo, what a town! *** Joan Didion being wheeled around Central Park on a sunny Thursday afternoon *** Collector and rapper Mike D at Atla *** A selection of art and fashion bold names at the rooftop cocktail bar Happy Be, now open high above Tribeca *** D.C. dealer Todd von Ammon, in town for his Catharine Czudej pop up that ran during Frieze, checking out Chinatown hotspot Dr. Clark’s, where writer and publicist Kaitlin Phillips was, intriguingly, carrying around a small painting by Pablo Barba *** The Drunken Canal crew celebrating their new issue with a raucous karaoke night at Winnie’s Saturday ***
*** Chloë Sevigny and her husband, Karma director Sinisa Mackovic, at the Knicks playoff game Wednesday at the Garden, go New York go New York go! *** Devin Troy Strother celebrating his new show at Broadway gallery with a dinner Saturday at Wu’s Wonton King, which my oenophile friends say is low-key the best BYOB setup in Manhattan—you pick up some dope pét-nat at People’s and enjoy whole giant crabs and suckling pigs, what could be better *** Iwan Wirth in a kilt at his birthday party ***
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