The Real Reason Sotheby’s $30 Million CryptoPunks Sale Flopped, Artists Abandon Downtown’s Hottest Gallery, and More Art-World Gossip

Plus, what artist is jazzed about her new Ugg collaboration? And jack-of-all-trades dealer Seth Fountain takes us on a tour through his life.

A Larva Labs CryptoPunk. during a media preview on June 4, 2021, at Sotheby's.(Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
A Larva Labs CryptoPunk. during a media preview on June 4, 2021, at Sotheby's.(Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

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].

 

YOU JUST GOT CRYPTOPUNK’D

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the crypto community, it’s that its members like to troll.

Really, it’s kind of part of the whole aesthetic. The more I see people complain about how NFTs are “ugly” and “not real art,” the more I can feel the people who buy them smirk. But a lot of this smug behavior is actually just smoke and mirrors. Allow Wet Paint to explain…

Last week, Sotheby’s got a whole room of people together to stage a single-lot sale of 104 CryptoPunks from the collection of an anonymous entity who goes by 0x650d. The sale had a ridiculous estimate—$20 to $30 million!—and was heavily marketed as “the highest valued estimate ever for an NFT lot at auction” and as having a sterling provenance “as one of the largest Punk collections held by a single wallet.” Honestly, I was sold. The sale even had a catchy little name: “PunkIt!

In retrospect, the name was ironic because in the end, everyone ended up punk’d when the lot was suddenly withdrawn before the sale even started. 0x650d, eager to look very, very cool, took responsibility for the show-stopping move, tweeting simply, “nvm, decided to hodl.” And not only that. The crypto punk (get it??) even claimed to have pulled the rug right out from under the auction house with a subsequent post.

Sotheby’s got rugged! But the whole thing got Wet Paint thinking: is that really what happened? Lots get pulled ahead of auctions all the time, but in most cases, it’s not the consignor’s decision. If auction house specialists know a work is about to flop, or that they can’t drum up enough interest to get a crowd hungry, they’ll often tell the collector or advisor to cancel the sale and try again next time.

In those rare cases when the collector decides to pull a work before it’s sold, they’re hit with a fee written into the consignment agreement—and it’s no chump change. Some even get charged 25 percent of a work’s low estimate. Would 0x650d be able to pony up $5 million because they suddenly didn’t feel like selling their Punks? It’s hard to imagine, especially since the lot was guaranteed neither by the auction house nor a third party, according to the sales catalogue. So the fee charged to the collector would be the only way for Sotheby’s to recoup any money it already invested in the sale.

So Wet Paint started poking around and, sure enough, two sources close to the sale, including Artnet‘s own crypto guru and muckracker, Kenny Schachter, who spoke ahead of the auction as part of a pre-sale event, said it was in fact the auction house that withdrew the lot due to lack of interest.

“Rugged?? No one got rugged, ridiculous,” Schachter wrote to Wet Paint. “Only people rugged are those that fell for 0x650d’s preposterous tweet!!!”

0x650d didn’t reply to a request for comment, but I get it. After Ken Griffin‘s savage takedown of the ConstitutionDAO, when the retail bogeyman swooped in to drop a record-shattering $43.2 million on a very old copy of the U.S. Constitution, the crypto community has reason for pent-up resentment. And in the end, 0x650d is still a winner. They spent $7 million this summer for the collection of Punks. Nothing gained, nothing lost. Except maybe a little bit of face.

 

OUT WITH THE OLD

Jamian Juliano-Villani. Photo by Lia Clay Miller.

Jamian Juliano-Villani. Photo by Lia Clay Miller.

Life moves pretty fast in the art world. If you don’t stop and snoop around gallery websites every once in a while, you might just miss it.

That’s just what Wet Paint was up to when I noticed that, over the course of just a few short days, two prominent artists had vanished from JTT’s roster: Jamian Juliano-Villani and Dan Herschlein.

Within a week, both names slipped away, and each artist confirmed to Wet Paint that they no longer work with the gallery, which is planning its move this month from the Lower East Side to Tribeca (brokered by, who else, Jonathan Travis). 

Juliano-Villani, who knows a thing or two about how galleries work since she’s opened her own, O’Flaherty’s, said that she decided to leave the super hot downtown gallery due to “creative differences.” She joined the stable way back in 2014, and told Artnet News five years later that what she loved about the gallery was that it gave her free rein.

“They’re cool because they trust me and let me do anything,” Juliano-Villani said of her dealers. “I’m like: ‘are you fucking sure?’ But they really trust the artist’s vision. When they come to the studio, they don’t tell me what to paint.”

As far as her other gallery is concerned, Massimo de Carlo, Juliano-Villani told Wet Paint she had no plans to move. As she put it: “they bang.” 

As for Herschlein, he told Wet Paint that it was the end of an era. 

“I was there from day one in one role or another, and I’m really proud of and grateful for all the opportunities and support that they’ve given me over the years, he said. “But unfortunately, it was time to go our separate ways.”

Herschlein will maintain representation with Matthew Brown in Los Angeles, whom he describes as “absolutely wonderful.” (So I’ve heard.

So what’s going on over at JTT that’s driving artists away like repelling magnets? The gallery didn’t respond to a request for comment, and even Juliano-Villani, who is typically a pretty open book, remained tight-lipped. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

SPOTTED

Tschabalala Self plugging her new Ugg collaboration, which I absolutely did not have on my 2022 bingo card, but wow they look fabulous *** Dean Kissick, Amalia Ulman, Gideon Jacobs, and Brad Phillips fêteing Cristine Brache at the beloved Chinatown hotspot Dim Sum Go-Go after the opening of her new show at Anonymous Gallery, which involves a film projected into a blow-up pool—I highly recommend swinging by *** Matthew Higgs, Nate Lowman, LaKela Brown, Stefania Bortolami, and Randy Kennedy at the opening of Public Access‘s secret show (ironic, no?) of Christopher Wool photographs *** Mark Ronson, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Dominic Fike, and Nicholas Braun at the opening of the new Midtown watering hole Pebble Bar *** Adam Driver visiting the Centre Pompidou *** Raymond Pettibon getting back on Twitter with some wild and exciting ideas ***

WE HEAR

Caroline Calloway is moving to Florida, and threw not one, not two, but three going away parties for herself, marking the end of an era of downtown New York … The Clark Institute has named Helen Molesworth and Hilton Als as recipients of its art-writing prize, which is an interesting choice … The fabled hotel that has been supposed to open up in Dimes Square for the past, er, decade has recently had some additional activity, signaling that it may open sooner rather than later … 56 Henry is planting a time capsule in its new space at the corner of Henry Street and Pike, and this edition of Wet Paint will be printed and buried in its walls, which as of right now looks like this …

LaKela Brown, Ellie Rines, Era Myrtz, Diego Benavente, Matt Dugan, and Louis Shannon discuss what should go in 56 Henry's time capsule. Photo by Annie Armstrong.

LaKela Brown, Ellie Rines, Era Myrtz, Diego Benavente, Matt Dugan, and Louis Shannon in 56 Henry’s new space. Photo by Annie Armstrong.

WET PAINT IN THE WILD 

Seth Fountain is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades: a one-man gallery, printshop, and artist, all under one flat-brimmed hat. I see his merchandise all around the city, especially his popular spoof on the David Zwirner tote. 

Beyond that, Seth recently opened The Museum of Art, a guerrilla art space, out of his apartment in SoHo, with a show of his own work that I’d recommend swinging by to see. I handed him a disposable camera to get a peek into his life. Here’s what it looks like.

Fashion ads in lower manhattan, so territorial always a specific brand in a specific place, just like stubborn aging graffiti writers.

Fashion ads in Lower Manhattan. So territorial, always a specific brand in a specific place, just like stubborn aging graffiti writers.

I love when I see the waste of time in someones work.

I love when I see the waste of time in someones work.

The newer, small paintings are first hung in the kitchen- its nice to glance when going to the sink, the fridge, the bathroom. A casual way to reflect instead of staring dead on, its not for everyone but sure works for me :)

My newer, smaller painting hung in the kitchen. It’s nice to glance at when going to the sink, the fridge, the bathroom. A casual way to reflect instead of staring dead on. It’s not for everyone, but sure works for me 🙂

Whenever possible- hold a dog higher than your head. You know, we really don't deserve them.

Whenever possible, hold a dog higher than your head. We really don’t deserve them.

The earliest known marigold was discovered by the Aztecs, who believed the blooms to possess spiritual and medicinal properties. The first recorded use of the marigold is in the De La Cruz-Badiano Aztec Herbal of 1552. The Herbal records the use of these blooms for the treatment of hiccups, being struck by lightning, or “for one who wishes to cross a river or body of water safely.”

The earliest known marigold was discovered by the Aztecs, who believed the blooms to possess spiritual and medicinal properties. The first recorded use of the marigold is in the De La Cruz-Badiano Aztec Herbal of 1552. The book records the use of these blooms for the treatment of hiccups, lightning strikes, or “for one who wishes to cross a river.”

Q: Other than pitch black, what's better than charged neon gas? A: Both

Q: Other than pitch black, what’s better than charged neon gas? A: Both.

Like every American tourist-Emily-in-paris-mf I went to Jim Morrison's grave in Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise, and bought this “acid” for 2 euro, and just like the guy on the blotter paper, Im certain its fake. Ive kept it as a souvenir but maybe should throw it away, or try it. Can we get a poll?

Like every American tourist Emily in Paris m.f.. I went to Jim Morrison’s grave in Cimetière du Père Lachaise, and bought this “acid” for €2. ‘m certain it’s fake. I’ve kept it as a souvenir, but maybe I should throw it away or try it. Can we get a poll?

WET PAINT QUESTIONNAIRE

The votes are in for the most fashionable art advisor.

Sarah Hoover nominated BJ Topol (“obvi”), while Chloe Wise volunteered Dan Oglander, though “partly because of his dog Beverly (beautiful golden fur, I mean, gorgeous), and partly because of his frequent proximity to my outfits.”

Garrett Colton tapped Benjamin Godsill, writing: “Way too many street-wearing ‘advisors’ and people try too hard. Ben knows how clothes should be tailored and gets subtle fits off on the regular. And he’s good at the job too.”

My question this week is: Which mega-gallery location is the tackiest? Send your answers in to [email protected].


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