Thief Steals Artwork From the Whitney Biennial, Frank Stella’s Son Donates to Ted Cruz to Spite Dad, and More Art-World Gossip

Plus, who sent a cardboard cut-out to represent him at a gala? Which ex-U.S. President has a big art show coming? Read on for answers.

People walk through the Whitney Biennial show at the Whitney Museum of Art on April 06, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/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].

QUIET AS IT’S KLEPT 

Man, they came so close.

It was the talk of the town in New York that somehow, this year’s Whitney Biennial came without a scandal attached. And what a run it was. In 2017, it was Dana Schutz’s portrait of Emmett Till, Open Casket (2016), that prompted heated protests and demands for the work’s removal. Two years later, it was the Teargas Biennial, wherein museum board member Warren Kanders’s ownership Safariland, which produces teargas that has been used on migrants at the U.S. border, was brought to light and fiercely protested, resulting in eight artists withdrawing from the show and Kanders eventually stepping down. Now, in 2022, the biennial is marked by a heist

That’s right! Finally, a new art heist! I’ll admit some schadenfreude because I do believe that art theft is perhaps the most fun crime to hear about. According to a report from the New York Police Department, an artwork was spirited away from the museum on March 30, the night of an opening celebration for museum members. I was present at the event, but was unfortunately too distracted by an odd smell to notice that a serious crime was underway.

But perhaps no one noticed, which may explain why the report came to police nearly two months after the event. According to the report, which was filed on May 24, the artwork (with a value in excess of $1,000) was nicked right out of the museum.

Three artists who have works in the show confirmed that they weren’t even alerted of the theft, adding to the multitude of questions still left unanswered. The biggest one is, what exactly was taken? According to the museum, “an element of a Biennial artwork installation was discovered missing. It has been located and is in the possession of the museum.” So perhaps only a part of something was taken, and not the whole shebang?

Thus, it could have been something small, like a book from Steve Cannon‘s archive of A Gathering of the Tribes, some Chuck E. Cheese tokens from Rose Salane‘s cheeky piece about stolen subway fares, or a much larger element, such as a bundle sculpture by Veronica Ryan, or one of the ceramic pieces in Woody De Othello‘s The will to make things happen. Your guess is as good as mine. 

 

FRANK STELLA AND SON BUTT HEADS

Frank Stella. (Photo by Zapf/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Family will always be complicated, no matter how many meaningful contributions you’ve made to advancing Minimalist abstraction through the canon of art history.

According to a since expired Instagram story, Frank Stella’s son, Patrick Stella, donated to Ted Cruz’s campaign in 2016, partly motivated by the goal of pissing off his parents.

This intel comes from the Instagram page of Hannah Stella, Patrick’s wife and Frank’s daughter-in-law. “My husband did donate to Ted Cruz before I met him and when he seemed like one of the GOP candidates most likely to beat Donald Trump in the primaries,” she wrote over a mirror selfie. “He’s not from Texas and just thought Ted seemed reasonable.” She added a little cherry on top: “Plus it really made his parents mad.”

Why Patrick, who owns a “fine wine credit” company, would want to upset his father by way of political donations is beyond me, but the evidence holds up. According to Open Secrets, an organization that publishes political campaign donations and lobbying data, Patrick donated $1,000 to Ted Cruz in two installments of $500, one sent in September of 2013, and one in October of 2014.

This ostensibly would upset Frank, who, according to the same website, has donated prolifically to DNC candidates for over 20 years. In fact, in 2016, he donated over $22,000 to the DNC, and sent over $2,000 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign directly.

Open Secrets also divulges that Hannah sent $500 to Kelly Loeffler, the (in my opinion, truly unhinged) Republican candidate for senate in my home state of Georgia who faced off Raphael Warnock in 2020. Hannah alleges that she did not in fact make these donations, and that she has contacted the Federal Election Commission about what she claims is a clerical error.

Neither Patrick nor Hannah nor Frank got back to my requests for comment, but I think it’s a safe bet that Thanksgivings have been an awkward affair.

WE HEAR 

Jordan Belfort, Channing Tatum, and Brooke Shields are among the collectors who have snapped up Cubist-like paintings by Andres Valencia, who is literally 10 years old Peter Halley is on the hunt for someone to help him archive 40 years of his Neo-conceptualist paintings … EmpireDAO has added an office at, where else, 190 Bowery, the graffiti-covered landmark that also houses Supreme‘s flagship location … Marianne Boesky has picked up representation of conceptual crypto-artist Sarah Meyohas … Klaus Biesenbach apparently misses his old friend Lana Del Rey, but not enough to keep track of what her Instagram account is … 

 

SPOTTED 

Attendees of Alyssa Davis’ gala with a cardboard cutout of Monsieur Zohore.

*** While away in Atlanta for the weekend, your devoted scribe couldn’t attend the ultra-sceney gala hosted by Alyssa Davis, nor could artist Monsieur Zohore, who sent a cardboard cutout of himself in his stead *** Though Wet Paint did spot a billboard advertising a show of paintings by former president George “Dubya” Bush on view at the Atlanta Historical Center, a hypocritical and head-scratching selection of portraits of immigrants in the notoriously warmongering politician’s signature brushy, figurative style *** Meanwhile, back in New York state, Joan Semmel, Arlene Slavin, and Joyce Kozloff absconded out East for the opening of Eric Firestone’s “Hanging/Leaning: Women Artists on Long Island, 1960s–80s” at the dealer’s Hamptons location***

 

WET PAINT QUESTIONNAIRE

I’m glad to know it’s not just me who can’t resist a good bathroom mirror selfie.

Last week, I asked which museum has the best bathrooms for self-portraits, with my answer obviously being the floral mosaic tiled masterpieces at the New Museum.

Curator Lolita Cros suggested the ladies rooms at SFMoMA, and Liam Goslett, a creative director with A24, volunteered both the Scottish National Gallery and the Victoria & Albert.

Thomas Cole Barron, a sales associate with Salon 94, had great things to say about the lavatories at the Brant Foundation in East Village, noting that they have “perfect vanity lighting and wall to wall marble.”

Lastly, Elsa Bruno, who works with Los Angeles’ Vielmetter, said the private collection Casa Museum Boschi di Stefano in Milan lends itself perfectly to bathroom selfies.

“Over the bathtub (of their actual bathroom!) is a painting by Ralph Rumney (husband of Pegeen Guggenheim), which perfectly frames you while giving you horrible conservation visions of the tub actually being in use.” That’s amoré!

Next up for your pondering: Who is the best dancer in the art world? Who is the worst? 


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