The Best and Worst Tippers in the Art World—Revealed, a Top Rapper Makes His Curatorial Debut, and More Juicy Art-World Gossip

Plus, what superstar artist's work got all dinged up on the way to the Venice Biennale? And artist Tourmaline gives us a peek into her life.

Tip your servers! (Photo by Chris Hondros/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].

WHAT THE TIPSTERS ARE SAYING ABOUT TIPPING 

I was raised on the idea that a person’s true colors come out when it’s time to tip someone in the service industry. And as someone who worked first as a barista in Williamsburg, and then as a hostess at a restaurant in Gramercy, I learned firsthand that there’s nothing worse than a bad tipper, especially in an industry where many servers are paid off the books, and make far less than minimum wage with the understanding that their tips account for that.

It’s a lesson that at least some in the art world have yet to learn.

“Whenever artist/gallery types come in for lunch, they have an aneurism when I ask them what they want to eat then leave a literal 50 cent tip,” outspoken Dimes employee Meetka Otto recently said on Twitter. She added: “why do gallery ppl never tip?”

So Wet Paint did a little digging. Who exactly is a bad tipper? According to one source at a certain Keith McNally-owned restaurant in Chelsea, none other than Adam Weinberg, director of the Whitney Museum, showed up during the lunch rush during the opening week of the most recent Whitney Biennial and only tipped about 10 percent. (Weinberg could not be reached for comment.)

A Brooklyn-based server, meanwhile, name-checked artists Robert Wilson and dealer Leo Koenig as bad tippers (neither responded to requests for comment). And it’s local lore in my former home city of Athens, Georgia that R.E.M. frontman/artist/collector Michael Stipe is a consistently bad tipper, with one friend saying he received a meager five percent from him on a meal. (This friend could be exaggerating, though. As Stipe wrote back to Wet Paint: “I always tip at least 20 percent for table service across the board and without exception. I worked service industry before I became a pop star.”)

I'm pretty sure this is how Woodward and Bernstein did it.

I’m pretty sure this is how Woodward and Bernstein did it.

I know, everyone has an off day. Maybe you forgot your cash or did the math wrong. And these complaints come from individual servers who had single interactions with the perps. But the bigger point is that if you have enough money to even consider investing in a piece of fine art, you have more than enough to ease some of your server’s burden. And if you’re worried about the crowd you’re with, jump in and solve the problem! Dealer Robert Dimin told Wet Paint he “never lets collectors or artists pick up checks, partly out of fears of poor tipping.”

But some art-worlders go above and beyond. 

One New York restauranteur told me they have a list of good tippers, including art dealers Nicola Vassell and Asli Fevzi, gallery scion Marlene Zwirner, and artist Marcus Jahmal. Another former waitress said Bomb Magazine founder Besty Sussman was an “incredibly lovely” guest, and that artists Marcel Dzama and Deborah Kass always tipped on the high-end.

Outside the bounds of the restaurant world, a former tutor for Larry Gagosian’s stepchildren told me that Larry himself once gave her “a nice bonus.” I was also tipped off that gallerist Stefania Bortolami is an excellent tipper to her Uber drivers, and collector Bruce Halle once reportedly tipped a docent $400 for a museum tour. What a mensch! 

Tldr; please tip, it’s the right thing to do. 

VIC MENSA, THE MULTI-HYPHENATE

Vic Mensa. Courtesy Kavi Gupta.

Vic Mensa. Courtesy Kavi Gupta.

Some people really can just do it all. Rapper Vic Mensa is the latest celebrity to take a waltz into the art world with a show he curated for Chicago’s revered Kavi Gupta. The group show, opening June 18 and including 17 Black artists, is titled “Skin and Masks” in a reference to Frantz Fanon’s book Black Skin, White Masks. All proceeds from the show will go to Mensa’s nonprofit, Save Money Save Life, which is currently working to establish an arts program in Accra, Ghana.

“The artists I’ve selected, who come from places like Chicago and Los Angeles to Ghana, Capetown, and everywhere in between, all express individual experiences that extend beyond racial projections,” Mensa told Wet Paint.

Many of the artists are rising stars, such as Chicago-native Darryl Westly, a former painter in Jeff Koons‘s studio whose surreal, heavily referential paintings got their auction debut at Phillips London in February last year, where Interior/Exterior #3 Balcony (Beirut) (2017) nearly doubled its high estimate to sell for about $8,000. Another one to watch from Mensa’s stable is Josie Love Roebuck, who works mostly in drawing, mixed media, and textiles. Her quilt pieces often depict imagery of children getting their hair done, or literally incorporate the artist’s own hair bows from when she was a child.

“Vic’s commitment to championing diverse and underrepresented voices strongly aligns with our ethos as a gallery,” Gupta told Wet Paint about the decision to work with the “U Mad” rapper. “Vic’s brought together an incredible group of emerging and established artists whose work fosters critical conversations about art, ideas, and the struggles that unify us.”

WE HEAR… 

Loved the Katharina Fritsch elephant at the entrance to the international pavilion. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

The Katharina Fritsch elephant at the entrance to the international pavilion. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

A green Katarina Fritsch elephant sculpture showed up broken in Venice and had to be emergency repaired … Charles Moffet has added artists Keiran Brennan Hinton, Julia Jo, and Miguel Angel Payano Jr to his roster … Meanwhile, PPOW has taken on Shellyne Rodriguez, as well as the the estate of Jimmy Desana, which was previously represented by Salon 94, pre-LGDR The anticipated and dreaded Nine Orchard hotel at the Jarmulowsky Building in Dimes Square is a go, with Altro Paradiso’s Ignacio Mattos as the head of hospitality … Los Angeles’s Stanley’s gallery is now officially called Sebastian Gladstone … New York gallery app See Saw is setting its sights on listing openings in the Hamptons this summer … Artist Manuel Mathieu won his lawsuit after getting hit by a motorbike, and is walking away with £3 million in damages… Chance the Rapper expressed interest in purchasing a piece by Stanley Whitney while in Venice …

SPOTTED 

Spike Lee strutting past the jazz club at Casa Cipriani *** Emily Ratajkowski, Josh Safdie, and Despot at Daniel Arnold’s book signing outside Tribeca’s Mmmuseum *** Juliana Huxtable dining en plein air in SoHo at Le Botaniste *** David Totah threw a veritable banger for Kenny Scharf at burlesque club Duane Park, where Marilyn Minter, Tony Shafrazi, Lee Quiñones, and Vincent Fremont all noshed on duck confit while enjoying a striptease *** Ovens and other kitchenware getting moved into the legendary New York restaurant Prune, which famously shuttered during the pandemic ***

WET PAINT IN THE WILD

While I personally could not be at the Venice Biennale last week, I thought it pertinent to find a surrogate who would approach the week with the same sense of bedazzlement and enthusiasm as I would. Enter artist Tourmaline. Here’s how her week looked…

In the airport Air France la premiere lounge at JFK waiting for my food and my flight to Venice!

In the Air France premiere lounge at JFK waiting for my food and flight to Venice.

Stayed at the Hotel Danieli for 2 weeks during installation. This was the view from my room in the morning.

I stayed at the Hotel Danieli for two weeks during installation. This was the view from my room.

Just arrived, experiencing my first water taxi, or as Sophia Giovannitti calls them, "waxis".

Just arrived and experiencing my first water taxi, or as Sophia Giovannitti calls them, “waxis.”

My first night in Venice having dinner with Wu Tsang, Christine McCharen-Tran, and Precious Okoyomon, aka the welcome committee, Coca Cola should sponsor me for how often I incorporate their products into my photos!

My first night in Venice, having dinner with Wu Tsang, Christine McCharen-Tran, and Precious Okoyomon, aka the welcome committee. Coca-Cola should sponsor me for how often I incorporate their products into my photos.

Rare moment, Zurich Deleon not filming me for the documentary she’s making.

Rare moment: Zurich Deleon not filming me for the documentary she’s making.

Little coffee moment with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Marianna Simnet.

Little coffee moment with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Marianna Simnet.

Crowd at the panel, can’t believe everyone woke up at 9 am!

Crowd at the panel. Can’t believe everyone woke up at 9 a.m.!

Selfie with Claire, Christine, Ethan on the morning of the Serpentine panel.

Selfie with Claire, Christine, Ethan on the morning of the Serpentine panel.


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