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Inside the Art Scandal that Rocked European Society –



Angela Gulbenkian was on a tear. In the summer of 2017 the German-born art adviser spent $10,500 to charter a private jet; $3,920 at the Hotel Café Royal, in London’s Soho neighborhood; $16,985 at Harrods; and $2,610 at Agent Provocateur. She also made stops at Rolex, Gucci, and Christian Louboutin. Her spending wasn’t especially lavish by the standards of the circles she claimed to move in, but there was a problem: The money may not have been hers.

In a bizarre swindle that would wind through Europe and Asia and involve some of the most celebrated names in contemporary art, the Hong Kong–based art dealer Mathieu Ticolat claims that Gulbenkian duped him out of $1.4 million, and that the fortune she was spending was stolen.

In March 2017 Ticolat, who specializes in finding modern and contemporary art for collectors all over the world, was advising a client when another dealer suggested he speak with Gulbenkian. Ticolat was familiar with the family name—the Gulbenkians founded an eponymous museum in Lisbon and have been a fixture in European society for generations—but Angela was a stranger to him. Nevertheless, “a lot of people in the art world knew of her,” Ticolat says, “and never told me of any bad experiences.”

Art advisor Angela Gulbenkian has been accused of fraudulently selling one of artist Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkin sculptures, like the one seen here on display in Naoshima, Japan.

Education ImagesGetty Images

The two were introduced via WhatsApp. Ticolat was looking for art to buy, and Gulbenkian claimed to know of a sculpture for sale. The piece, a work by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (who has been the subject of retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Modern), was a hot commodity.

This particular sculpture was Yellow Pumpkin, from 2012. It was made of fiberglass and reinforced plastic, weighed 178 pounds, and, Gulbenkian explained, had been kept in a crate in a warehouse in Switzerland since being created. Was Ticolat interested? “It was attractive to buy a large yellow pumpkin at this price,” Ticolat says. “She had access to the work, which I verified, so I went for it.”

Gulbenkian was born Angela Maria Ischwang in Munich on February 17, 1982. As an adult she moved to London, where she married sports agent Duarte Gulbenkian, a great-grandnephew of Calouste Gulbenkian, the late British-Armenian multimillionaire who made a fortune selling oil concessions in the Ottoman Empire to European countries. He was also a prodigious art collector, amassing 6,000 works, most of which now belong to a foundation that bears his name in Lisbon.

angela gulbenkian

Angela Gulbenkian, who married into a famed European art family, has been accused of selling high-end works by artists like Andy Warhol. The problem? They weren’t hers to sell.

Henry VaughanAP

Angela Gulbenkian was well spoken and beautiful, and she appeared to move easily among the one percent. She presented herself as an heir to one of the world’s great fortunes; Gulbenkian, the Times of London once wrote, “is one of the best-known philanthropic names, up there with Rothschild, Getty, and Tate.” It was this name that Angela began using when she entered the art business, in February 2016, launching a consultancy called FAPS-Net Limited.

According to a self-written entry on Medium, an online publishing platform, Gulbenkian is “one of the most well-known art collectors and entrepreneurs,” and though today she is only 38 years old, she has been “active in the arts and cultural space for the past 20 years.” According to this bio she facilitated thousands of shipments of art in “a transparent, ethical, and efficient manner.” It was a background people found easy to believe.

When the collector Marie Moatti met Gulbenkian at the ­Saatchi Gallery in London during an opening for artist Philip Colbert, she says, “we became friendly instantly.” Because Gulbenkian was standing with the famed auctioneer Simon de Pury, “she was sort of validated,” Moatti recalls. Moatti had visited the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon and immediately recognized the name. “Because I knew the foundation, I just felt I could trust her.”

angela gulbenkian andy warhol

Andy Warhol’s “Queen Elizabeth II,” which a London-based art dealer has accused Angela Gulbenkian of selling to him without its owner’s permission.

John Stillwell – PA Images

Others weren’t so sure. Indeed, many art world insiders claim never to have heard of Gulbenkian before the scandal. “I don’t think she was very active in the art market,” says Kenny Schachter, a collector as well as a friend and victim of art dealer Inigo Philbrick, who was recently indicted on charges of wire fraud and identity theft. “It would be hard to find people who had dealings with her. She was more of an upstart.” The London-based art critic and filmmaker Ben Lewis agrees, calling Gulbenkian a “hanger-on…trying to make a buck.”

Today the Gulbenkian Foundation is quick to distance itself. “Angela Gulbenkian does not have any relation whatsoever with the foundation and, as far as we know, is married to a Gulbenkian family member who is not a direct descendant of our founder,” a spokesperson told Bloomberg. Neither Gulbenkian, her lawyers, nor her husband responded to Town & Country’s requests for comment.

In April 2017 Ticolat and Gulbenkian settled on the sum of $1,375,000 for the pumpkin and signed a bill of sale. Soon Ticolat wired $100,000 to Gulbenkian’s HSBC account. He didn’t send the payment to an escrow account—which was not unusual, given the old-­fashioned agreements the art world still relies on. Ticolat told me this choice was due to “the strong referral from a trusted friend, the need to act quickly, and the Gulbenkian Foundation’s reputation.”

“You don’t treat a customer that pays $1 million for a sculpture like garbage.”

On May 9 Ticolat wired the balance, $1,275,000. He expected the pumpkin to arrive in Hong Kong shortly and told his client as much. Ticolat asked Gulbenkian to restore minor scratches on the pumpkin before shipping it to Asia. “The conservator got paid, the report was done, and it was all good to go,” Ticolat says. But there were delays; issues arose with insurance, customs, and the building of the crate.

While Ticolat waited for the pumpkin, Gulbenkian traveled to Lugano, Sardinia, Lisbon, Venice, Ibiza, and the Greek islands. She also transferred money to her husband and her mother in Munich. Meanwhile, Ticolat grew increasingly distressed. On August 21 he ­texted, “The pumpkin belongs to me. I paid for it. I want access. I will not wait another day.” Six days later he texted again. “This is insane. This ridiculous situation has been dragging on for months. You are totally irresponsible.” Gulbenkian replied, “If you bother me, I am going to not correspond with you anymore.”

In October 2017 Ticolat flew to London for the Frieze Art Fair, and Gulbenkian suggested they meet at a restaurant in Belgravia. “She spoke very convincingly, sure of herself and what she was doing.” When Ticolat confronted her regarding the delay, Gulbenkian assured him that the work would be released the following week. She explained that the owner of the pumpkin, the head of Porsche, was a “family friend” and “very difficult.” He worried, she said, that the sculpture being sold to another dealer would reflect badly on him, as if he were reselling for a quick profit. Ticolat assured Gulbenkian this was not the case, and they agreed to sign a no-resale agreement. Ticolat flew back to Hong Kong feeling more assured, but when another week passed, he grew angry again. Their mutual animosity was reflected in the messages they began sending each other. “You are a liar,” Ticolat texted on December 14. “Fuck you,” came the reply.

portugal, lisbon, sao sebastiao, museu calouste gulbenkian, modern art exhibit

The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, Portugal, is named for the patriarch of the art dynasty Angela Gulbenkian married into.

Jeff GreenbergGetty Images

Around then, a friend recommended that Ticolat speak to Chris Marinello, an artist turned lawyer, who founded Art Recovery International in 2013 and has since been dubbed “the Sherlock Holmes of Nazi-looted art.” Around Christmas, Ticolat briefed Marinello on what had transpired. “I haven’t met you,” Marinello told Ticolat. “But I am telling you, this is fraud.” Ticolat denied this assertion, but Marinello was adamant. “You don’t treat a customer that pays $1 million for a sculpture like garbage.”

On January 30, 2018, Marinello, acting on behalf of Ticolat, filed criminal complaints in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. That June, Marinello heard from the attorney for Art Seen, the agent for the owner of the pumpkin. The pumpkin hadn’t belonged to the head of Porsche. Art Seen’s lawyer informed Marinello that when Gulbenkian failed to deliver the balance owed, they canceled the contract and sold the pumpkin to an anonymous buyer.

It was only then that Ticolat realized he’d been had. “I knew I had been scammed,” he says, and with the pumpkin gone his plan changed. The goal now was to do everything possible to “recoup the money,” Marinello says.

fake german heiress anna sorokin is led away after being sentenced in manhattan supreme court may 9, 2019  following her conviction last month on multiple counts of grand larceny and theft of services photo by timothy a clary  afp        photo credit should read timothy a claryafp via getty images

Gulbenkian’s detractors have compared her to Anna Delvey, who made headlines in 2018 for an art-world scam that took in almost $200,000.


Fraud is not unusual in the $64 billion global art market. In 2020 Philbrick was charged with wire fraud and identity theft after bilking collectors and lenders out of nearly $20 million, and the FBI raided the Michigan property of painter Donald Henkel, who is suspected of running a ­forgery operation over a period of years. In 2018 a woman going by the name Anna Delvey made headlines for a scam that took in almost $200,000, money that was supposedly meant to build a Manhattan arts club. “Everyone has seen crazy prices, and criminals want a piece of that,” Marinello says. “There are more Philbricks, more Gulbenkians, more Delveys, holding themselves out as someone they are not.”

When Marinello contacted the Metropolitan Police in London, he was met with indifference, he tells me. “We have very few resources available to research art crimes,” Marinello recalls an officer telling him. On June 22, 2018, Marinello and Ticolat filed a criminal suit in the UK, and soon after that they filed a civil suit in Germany to recover $288,000 that Gulbenkian had wired to her mother. On July 27, 2018, a British judge froze what little remained of Gulbenkian’s assets (Marinello says, “It is believed that she is hiding her true assets”) and directed her to pay Ticolat back in full, plus legal fees and attendant court costs. Favorable judgment notwithstanding, Ticolat was still a man who was a pumpkin short and bereft of a million dollars.

Soon Marinello was getting calls from other victims looking for information. There was ArtCube, an online matchmaking service for sellers and buyers in the art world, which told Marinello it had been defrauded of $15,000. Gulbenkian’s former masseuse claimed she had entrusted $65,000 to Gulbenkian, money she has not seen again. An art dealer in New York and an interior design firm in London both claimed to have never been paid for work at her Battersea flat.

portraits of japanese artist yayoi kusama

Pumpkin sculptures by Yayoi Kusama, seen here, have sold at auction for close to $7 million.

Jeremy Sutton-HibbertGetty Images

“Angela Gulbenkian was obsessed with the pumpkin sculpture by Kusama,” says Jane Morris of the Percy Bass interior design company. “She even had special wall­paper designed with large pink dots inspired by the pumpkin.” The company normally asks for a deposit before commencing work, but Gulbenkian explained that funds were coming directly from Lisbon and urged them to begin. “She pretended that the Gulbenkian Foundation in Portugal paid all her bills,” Morris says.

In February 2019 James Ashcroft, a London art dealer, was approached about buying Andy Warhol’s Queen Elizabeth II. The referral came from a friend who knew a seller named Florian Kappe and his associate, Angela Gulbenkian. By then the Gulbenkian name had been publicly associated with fraud, and Ashcroft was wary. “I am not dealing with that woman,” he told the friend, but he never­theless agreed to look at the painting. Ashcroft examined it and liked what he saw. “It’s just the sort of picture I like to buy,” he says. “You can sell those every day.”

Ashcroft’s concerns were further assuaged by the fact that Kappe and Gulbenkian had a signed agreement stating that they were acting on behalf of the painting’s owner, the Frankfurt-based businessman Thomas Braun. In March 2019 Ashcroft agreed to wire $150,000 to Gulbenkian’s HSBC account. Just a few weeks after the sale, Ashcroft sold the painting for a profit.

57 international art biennale in venice   atmosphere

The Venice Biennale, seen here in 2017, is one of the international art fairs that Gulbenkian is said to have attended.

AwakeningGetty Images

Soon afterward, he received a letter from Braun informing him that Braun had never authorized the sale. Braun pursued Ashcroft in London court, and in March 2020 Ashcroft agreed to pay him back for the picture plus legal fees. Kappe has argued that the painting was meant for “viewing purposes only” and should not have been released to Ashcroft. In the following months Gulbenkian posted photos on Instagram from Art Basel, the Venice Biennale, and other locations around the world, posing with the likes of Ai Wei Wei, but in reality she was wading deeper into the legal morass. On April 13, 2019, a warrant was issued in the UK for Gulbenkian’s arrest, but she had already fled to her ­mother’s house in Germany.

When Marinello found out, he asked the German authorities to arrest her, but they were unable to, as there was not yet an extradition treaty in place between Germany and the UK. Eventually, a court hearing was set for May 14, 2020, in Britain. After a series of delays, Gulbenkian failed to appear at a second hearing, and a warrant was issued for her arrest.

In the meanwhile, Gulbenkian (whom ArtNet referred to as a “runaway art heiress”) had left Germany for Lisbon, and on June 16 she was arrested by the Portuguese authorities. A hearing in the German case was held in September; a decision is still pending. Gulbenkian was held in a women’s prison in Portugal before being extradited to the UK in December. Her trial is scheduled for early 2021.

“She lied, fabricated email correspondence, and faked bank transfers, but she also made real payment of deposit and restoration, and shipping costs,” Ticolat says. That was, in a way, her genius: What she said always had a basis in reality. She was indeed married to a Gulbenkian, and the business of shipping costly artworks is indeed fraught. Most crucially, perhaps, it turns out she did know something about art and its value. Three years after her million-dollar scam, the Kusama pumpkin Gulbenkian sold to Ticolat for $1.4 million has doubled in price.

This story originally appeared in the February issue of Town & Country.

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Saskatoon-area painter, sculptor selected to make official Disney artwork — from Moana to Mulan –



A Saskatchewan artist is joining the elite ranks of those who bring the magic of Disney to life.

Denyse Klette is the first Canadian to be signed by Collectors Editions as an officially published creator of Disney Fine Art.

“It’s magical,” Klette said. “My mom and dad had Sunday nights as a special evening where … they’d make us hamburgers and french fries and we’d watch The Wonderful World of Disney. So I absolutely grew up on this.”

Collectors Editions is not a Disney corporation, but it’s the only independent company in the world with rights to produce and publish Disney Fine Art.

“They have a small group of artists from around the world that they’ve selected, and we get to design and create Disney art,” Klette said. “The originals are sold in different Disney galleries and also they have reproductions done.”

Klette is a painter and sculptor based on an acreage just outside of Saskatoon. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

The painter and sculptor, who lives on an acreage just outside of Saskatoon, has a style that combines her mediums. Klette paints an image, then sculpts around the edges to give it a 3D aspect.

Klette said she is allowed to base pieces on almost any of Disney’s animated works. She first produces a full-colour concept drawing on her iPad, then uploads it to the Collectors Editions team. The team sends it to the Walt Disney Company, which then reviews it and makes any corrections on proportions or colours. Disney then sends it back to Collectors Editions, which gives her the go-ahead.

Klette paints an image, then sculpts around the edges to give it a 3D aspect. She is allowed to base pieces on almost any of Disney’s animated works. After producing a full-colour concept drawing on her iPad, she sends it off to the Collectors Editions team for approval. (© Disney)

So far Klette has created artwork inspired by the movies Beauty and the Beast, Moana, Tangled, Frozen, The Lion King, Lilo & Stitch and Mulan, as well as the characters Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Klette’s work is mainly on display at the Disney art gallery, located at the Epcot Centre in Florida, but she’s allowed to sell in Canada through her website. Her originals or reproductions can also be found at galleries authorized by Collectors Editions.

“It’s so much fun. I get to walk into my studio and paint Mickey Mouse,” Klette said. “I still do like my non-Disney, but to do Disney art, it’s such a magical and close-to-the-heart experience.”

Klette’s work can be found in hotels, resorts, private collections, home decor products, bags, puzzles and more. She also signed a book deal in 2016 for a whimsical series of adult colouring books distributed worldwide. (© Disney)

Klette said she has an extensive library of Disney books that she collected over the course of almost 40 years.

“It really is a dream come true,” she said.

Noka Aldoroty, the director of Disney Fine Art at Collectors Editions, said in a statement that Walt Disney’s ability to inspire others to create was his greatest talent.

“It amazes me that even to this day, his legacy is still inspiring artists to invent new ways of reimagining and interpreting Disney stories through their own creative lens,” Aldoroty said.

“We saw in Denyse a truly unique point of view artistically, and we could not be more excited to share her talents with Disney fans and art collectors around the world.”

One of Klette’s pieces is a Moana-inspired painting with a custom-sculpted frame. (© Disney)

Klette’s work can be found in hotels, resorts, private collections, home decor products, bags, puzzles and more. She also signed a book deal in 2016 with Macmillan Publishers for a whimsical series of adult colouring books distributed worldwide.

She is currently working on pieces inspired by Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations and Ursula from The Little Mermaid

The Morning Edition – Sask5:15Sask. woman first Canadian to be chosen as fine artist for Disney’s Collectors Editions

From The Lion King to Moana, Disney animation has inspired decades of memorable characters. Now, a Saskatoon artist is joining the elite ranks of those who bring the magic of Disney to life. Denyse Klette is the first Canadian to be signed by Collectors Editions, as an officially published artist of Disney Fine Art. Denyse joins host Stefani Langenegger to talk about her unique artistic style and being signed to Disney. 5:15

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Crypto art is gaining traction and one of its biggest stars is an artist from Thunder Bay – The Globe and Mail



Artist Michah Dowbak was born and raised in Thunder Bay.

Mad Dog Jones

Last year at this time, Michah Dowbak had never heard of crypto art. Last week, his latest drop grossed more than US$4.3-million – the bulk of that in the space of five minutes. This has cemented the Thunder Bay-born and raised artist – who goes by the name Mad Dog Jones – as a crypto-art sensation, with the most successful primary drop to date on the Nifty Gateway platform.

“How do you describe making $4-million in five minutes?” Dowbak said a few days afterward. “My hands were numb, for one. I couldn’t feel my fingertips. My whole body was shaking.”

Crypto art is digital art with an attached unique identifier, in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT), on the blockchain. NFTs can’t be replicated and only the holder of the NFT can own that piece of crypto art.

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The work is offered in “drops” – online sales that generally happen in two ways. Buyers can purchase an open edition (think of it as a numbered print, in traditional art terms). Each edition is sold at a set price, but purchasers have only five minutes to buy. The other part of a drop is the auction of a 1/1 edition, a single unique work. Bids for those are taken for 23 hours.

Broadwalk by Dowbak, also known as Mad Dog Jones.

Mad Dog Jones

The sales are held on platforms such as SuperRare and Nifty Gateway, which is the site Dowbak uses. Nifty Gateway, which launched its platform last March, is owned by Gemini – the company founded and controlled by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the twins perhaps best known for their Facebook history.

The crypto-art market has grown steadily, building to a buzz now audible in the mainstream, in large part because of the artist known as Beeple (real name Mike Winkelmann). Beeple’s opus is currently for sale at Christie’s – the first time the storied auction house is selling a purely digital work. Bids are being taken over two weeks.

Separately, on Wednesday, a work of Beeple’s sold on the secondary market through Nifty Gateway for US$6.6-million.

Beeple made US$660,000 from that. Unlike traditional sales of art, artists in the digital space earn a percentage of secondary sales; 10 per cent is standard. This is a major departure from the fine art world, where an artist is paid only for the original sale.

The platform also takes a cut – on both primary sales and secondary sales.

Buyers often come from the crypto space, says Tommy Kimmelman, head of artist relations at Nifty Gateway. “It’s largely technical-minded people who inherently understand how this stuff works. But we are starting to expand into other demographics.” He says the platform did about US$8.5-million in sales in January and, in a staggering jump, more than US$50-million in February.

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Owners might display the art through their online profile – their website, social-media accounts, etc. It can also be cast to a screen, such as a TV or a tablet to show in a physical setting.

A common question, as people try to wrap their heads around this, is: Couldn’t somebody just screengrab the art and display it without actually owning it?

“Well, sure,” Dowbak says. “Somebody could also take a picture of the Mona Lisa. But they don’t own the Mona Lisa.”

Dowbak, 35, grew up around art; his father, Damon, is a glass artist and the family business involves stained glass windows. Michah and his brother Josh were sometimes used as models. “There’s a Last Supper window where I’m one of the disciples and my brother is Jesus,” says Dowbak during a phone interview, while out walking his dog Diablo in the rural community of Kaministiquia, outside of Thunder Bay, where he lives.

You can detect a stylistic influence from those early stained glass windows on Dowbak’s crypto art: the bright colours, the line work. The subject matter, however, is another thing. His work, as described by Nifty Gateway, is “a cyberpunk rendition of metropolitan lifestyle rooted in nature.” A black cat lounges in a laundromat as laundry spins in one of the machines and breaking news scrolls by on the television above. Or a taxi is stuck in a storm, its doors flung open as its hazard lights flash, along with lightning in a purple sky.

Music was his first career. A classically trained violinist, high-school turntablist and keyboardist, Dowbak played with Coleman Hell, who had a breakout hit 2 Heads, in 2015. Dowbak was also making art for bands – such as posters and album covers.

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He started his Mad Dog Jones Instagram page in 2017. The account gained traction and Dowbak’s design career took off. He did work for Diesel, the Snowpiercer TV series, the Conor McGregor Reebok campaign, Maroon 5′s Super Bowl halftime show. With the art career momentum, Dowbak stepped away from music.

He heard about crypto art last summer and was immediately intrigued. He did his first drop on Nifty Gateway in November: 100 pieces that he sold for one dollar each.

He did more drops and charged more. There was some income from secondary sales, too. One piece that originally sold for US$3,500 was purchased by a secondary collector for US$18,000. It was steady and encouraging.

Dowbak’s manager Jonathan Simkin, who runs 604 Records.


In a deal he put together by his manager Jonathan Simkin – who runs 604 Records, Coleman Hell’s label – Dowbak collaborated with musician Deadmau5 for his next drop. (Digital art can also have a soundtrack.)

That drop grossed more than US$404,000. “Just total flabbergasted pandemonium of the mind,” is how Dowbak felt. “It was really a turning point.”

Still, it wasn’t clear how much of that success was due to the involvement of star musician Deadmau5.

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Another drop was planned for February 18. They called it Crash + Burn.

“There were a lot of eyes on this drop, in that world, to really get a sense of where the value is,” notes Simkin. “Did we gross [that amount] with Deadmau5 because of his name, because of Michah’s fan base, or a little of both?”

Why would I care I’m just a cat? by Mad Dog Jones priced at US$2,500.

Mad Dog Jones

There were two open collections: Why would I care I’m just a cat? priced at US$2,500 each and Déjà Vu, priced at US$5,000 each. The first sold 909 works; the second, 328. The 1/1 auction for Boardwalk sold for US$388,888. The total was more than US$4.3-million. Of that, US$3.9-million was raised in those first five minutes.

“You have to understand how insane it is,” says Simkin, who was watching from Vancouver. “I’m sitting there on Thursday when the timer starts: and I’m refreshing my screen … in disbelief, watching Michah becoming a multimillionaire in five minutes.”

Another part of Crash + Burn involved those pieces Dowbak sold for one dollar each, way back in November when he was a crypto-art rookie. He released seven new 1/1 artworks. But they couldn’t be purchased with money. The only way to get those pieces was to collect five of those US$1 works from his first drop and trade them for one of the new ones. Once the old works are sent to Dowbak, he destroys them (“burn” is the crypto term).

Déjà Vu by Mad Dog Jones.

Mad Dog Jones

That pushed up the secondary-market price of those works that originally sold for US$1 – benefiting Dowbak, sure, as the strategy drove up his prices, but mostly rewarding the people who had invested in him.

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“Holy crud,” he said at one point as we spoke late Wednesday night. One of those original US$1 pieces had just sold for more than US$47,000 and another for US$49,000, as a buyer attempted to collect five to trade them in for one of Crash + Burn’s new pieces.

Dowbak plans to pay off his parents’ mortgage, contribute to care for his nephew, who has autism; and give to charity. And continue to make art.

“What’s crazy, too – I don’t want to sound cocky, but the year is not done. There’s still more that we can do here,” he says. “And that’s what’s breaking my brain about this.”

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'He stood out': The art, life and struggle of Hamilton artist and outcast Philip Stone – Toronto Star



He was born on Feb. 29, an unusual day for an unusual man.

Philip Stone would grow to become both a gifted visual artist and a flamboyant outcast — known as much for his ability to stand out as for his coveted art.

Stone saw magic in the world. He delighted in birds and butterflies, flaming flowers and swirling clouds. He explored femininity on the pages of drawings, as if femaleness was a side of him that needed to emerge. He found fantasy even in the surreal ways the mixture of colours change their hues. It all came out through paints on his palette, or the inks of the ballpoint pens he used.

“His passion was expression,” a friend recalls. “A sheet of paper, on a canvas, on his person.”

Living in an industrial city of starched collars and blue uniforms, Stone wore feathered caps and French berets, dramatic capes over patterned shirts with peacock blue pants held up by rhinestone studded belts. He was 6’2,” and made taller still by his metallic platform shoes. One pair had goldfish in the heels.

Some knew him as a dramatic, excitable and proud gay man, to others he was timid, quiet and shy. But they all say Stone was like a shooting star; a twinkle in the starry night, delightful in the moment but all too brief.

Stone would be dead at age 24, dying hours after he was beaten by two men in a community that had long made him feel as though he didn’t belong.

Yet even now, if you ask around, it’s not uncommon for someone to remember and ask about whatever happened to Philip Stone.

Hamilton was booming in the 1950s. Manufacturing giants Stelco and Dofasco were pumping out steel and ambitiously growing, while neighbouring operations produced everything from Studebaker cars to Lifesavers. With such growing business, Hamilton was called the “lunch-bucket city,” a place for industry, not art.

“So what? There are quite a few cities in Canada that wish they had what we have,” former mayor Victor Copps once wrote. “A good industrial base means jobs.”

Stone was born in 1952, the first child of Wesley Stone and June Little, a local couple who lived on Hamilton Mountain, a rapidly expanding suburban area atop the escarpment. Four more children — Steve, Marguerite, Marie and James — would follow. Wesley Stone worked for a bread company, while June stayed at home to raise the children.

Their house, situated on Mohawk Road East, was surrounded by expansive fields, giving the Stone children a vast space to play. It was there Philip Stone developed his fascination with nature. While his siblings were off jumping in the nearby creek and getting dirty, Stone would amble back and watch butterflies flutter about, the flowers dance in the wind and the bees gather nectar. He’d quietly consider what he saw and reproduce it all in a sketchbook with wildflowers he collected tucked inside. He did the same thing on family trips to conservation areas and the Canadian National Exhibition.

In the bedroom he shared with his brothers, Stone took up a corner to draw and paint. A crawl space was converted to a spaceship with boxes, tinfoil and paint. He would later paint spaceships and galactic scenes on another wall. Art and the act of creating seemed natural for him with a mother who painted water colours and did pottery. He was gentle and quiet, also like her. His voice was soft and effeminate.

Philip Stone, left, with his first brother Steve. Philip would grow to be a visual artist who identified as gay. Steve would become a police officer who struggled with his colourful brother's persona as he worked in a police force that was not friendly to the gay community.

As the boys turned to men, Steve Stone thought his brother Philip could not be more different from him. Steve was outgoing, athletic with a strong rapport. Philip was a loner, shy and docile. The difference was confusing for two so naive to the world.

“I felt my brother was a bit strange,” Stone says of his thinking at the time. “My friends would describe him as a fairy.”

While putting words to his sexual identity took time, Philip Stone was gay. His parents, sisters and younger brother accepted that but Steve did not understand him and he was not kind. In a heteronormative world with narrow social norms, he “didn’t know how to interact” with Philip. The two “disconnected,” he says. They went separate ways “like a fork in the road.”

Philip’s road took him to Hamilton’s downtown core, where there was more diversity and vibrancy than on the Mountain. He commuted daily to Central Secondary School, where he took up an intensive arts program and was thought to be “unassuming … but leagues ahead of (other students) because he already had a defined style.”

Primarily using bright ecoline inks, tempera paint and watercolours, he would craft surrealistic nature scenes and figures on thick stock paper. The scenes were often crammed with recognizable elements, such as birds, flowers, plants and insects, or abstract shapes with emerging humanistic touches. Often a female figure would be incorporated as a figure hiding or emerging from the rich matrix. It was as if he was portraying a female’s reflection on life, or exploring the perceptions of a female person.

As his art emerged and was noticed, Stone signed his work “North Troll.” He never explained the alias, but siblings and friends thought it was a result of a negative self-perception or a wish for discretion.

Still, Stone believed art was his future. There were “not a lot of avenues for an artist to make a living,” friend David Byers remembers, but there was no doubt being an artist was who he was.

Stone didn’t pursue any post-secondary training and instead found himself visiting coffee shops, studio spaces, galleries and even hair salons where creative types were known to hang out. He loved science fiction movies, listened to Led Zeppelin and was a dramatic storyteller. He devoured fashion magazines and went extreme with his personal style. The shirt and pants were colourful, the accessories were glittery and he was known to carry a black portfolio or decorated hat box. Paint was not limited to paper or canvas. He painted his shoes and his belts, designed rings and he stylized hats, once designing one as a gift for entertainer Liberace when he made an appearance at a bookstore.

“Phil was always flamboyant in his dress,” friend Lynne Powell recalls. “He stood out. … We were still a pretty redneck kind of town.”

Hamilton didn’t have much of a gay community scene. You could be “out” in artistic circles, a union hall was known to host gay dances and there were areas for cruising. There were a few discreet gay bars, but attendance could be dangerous. Hamilton was known for gang activity, where two dominant gangs staked turf over much of the city and were noted by law enforcement as “a constant problem.”

Police also were a concern. LGBTQ people largely saw officers as a threat, not allies. Stone and friends noted police seemed to hang out near the gay bars and thought they might accost them.

Among officers was Stone’s brother, Steve. He joined the Hamilton police force in 1972 and it was common for him to see Philip out downtown while he was on patrol. Steve tried to avoid him. The force was unfriendly to gay people, he says now, and he felt vulnerable to be seen as an ally to his outwardly gay and flamboyant sibling in front of ignorant colleagues or the gang members he was tasked with policing.

“Hamilton had a tough and rough side,” he says. “There was no tolerance for people who were different. It’s like there was an unspoken standard and if you were outside that standard, there could be trouble for you.”

Hamilton artist Philip Stone with friends David Byers and Pat O'Neill (both of the bands Simply Saucer and The Shangs) in the early 1970s.

Stone did not specify if that trouble came from police. In Toronto, it is well documented police often haunted gay venues where they harassed and intimidated members of the gay community. LGBTQ people were charged with various offences, even though same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in 1969. Police activity culminated in the 1981 bathhouse raids that kicked off demonstrations in a fight for rights and a place to safely belong.

The conclusion for many was that “anyone who was gay might as well not (have) lived here.”

James Stone says Philip “didn’t care what anyone thought of his sexual identity and style. He didn’t like Hamilton.”

Philip Stone made regular visits to New York, Montreal and Toronto, living briefly in all of them. In Toronto, he hung out in the hippy bars of Yorkville and worked at a bathhouse mere blocks from the busy gay beer halls along Yonge Street.

All the while Stone continued to make his art and he began to sell some of it. Word spread quickly of his talent, including to prominent and powerful Hamilton families such as the Fortinos and the Brockers who all bought prints. A key friendship was with Bill Powell, an artist and entrepreneur who was, as The Hamilton Spectator reported, “a big-talking booster who was convinced that a city known for steel and gridiron also had a heart of artistic gold.” Powell would later co-found the Festival of Friends, a summer event for the arts. It continues to this day.

In the early 1970s, Powell and his wife Lynne ran a coffee house and art gallery on Augusta Street. They wanted a place for artists who, Lynne Powell says, had “a hunger (among artists) for a place to belong.”

The couple took Stone under their wing, framed his prints, displayed his work, hosted his first exhibition and got the word out. Prominent philanthropist and patron of the arts Irving Zucker caught on, bought many prints and championed Stone’s talent.

Powell came to see his creative process, as Stone was almost constantly drawing, painting and creating. She describes his method as intricate, “the most incredible process to watch. … It was almost like birth.”



“By placing a human face centrally, Phil Stone then proceeds to introduce his almost baroque cornucopia of the fertile, almost hothouse environment, where everything is teeming with life, energy and growth,” a 1974 article in The Hamilton Spectator read. “His mannequinlike faces that emerge and recede from painting to painting may indeed present some new, escape world that has a life of its own.”

Another review said his art “may just be considered brilliant, without qualification.”

His prints eventually sold for up to $500. That would equate over $3,000 today.

Spending so much time together, Powell says Stone “had a way about him where everything was bigger than life. He went to Montreal, saw the Notre-Dame (Basilica) and talked of weeping at its beauty. He looked at things with wonder and amazement, almost childlike.”

The Powells also saw his drug addiction. Stone frequently used drugs — “you name it, he took it,” one friend said. On agreement with him, the Powells withheld his payments and divvied it out in rations to keep him from indulgence and excess. His drug use worked into his art. Later creations were increasingly described as fantastical, surrealistic and hallucinogenic, but they still sold like everything else.

Hamilton artist Philip Stone with friend David Byers, founding member of the bands Simply Saucer and The Shangs, in the early 1970s.

Stone seemed more certain of himself. He surrounded himself with artists, including artist Allan Oddly, figure skater and painter Toller Cranston and Byers, a musician and founding member of the bands Simply Saucer and The Shangs. Stone also dropped the name “North Troll” and began signing his work with his real name.

Even with the support he had from figures like Powell and Zucker, Philip Stone and friends in the arts felt opportunities were limited in Hamilton.

Discouraged, Stone briefly abandoned his work and took up working nights at a post office. But the call to create remained and he quit to return to his art. By September 1976, the drawing he was working on was intended as a wedding gift for his brother Steve even though they were still estranged.

“All he ever wanted was to exist for his art,” his father said.

His sexual identity and flashy fashion continued to make him a target for gangs and homophobic people. Someone called him “the strangest bird in town.” It was not uncommon for him to be denied service in stores or restaurants for how he looked and to be called derogatory names walking down the street. He was robbed and beaten up. Stone’s own brother Steve says it must have “been like torture.”

Stone told his sisters he was deeply depressed. He felt like an outcast.

“I can’t live anymore because society won’t accept me,” he told his mother.

It was late at night on a weekend in September when Stone and a friend were walking downtown and encountered two men outside a bar who taunted them and threatened a beating. A chase ensued, and while the friend was able to escape into a nearby hotel, the men caught up with Stone and he found himself at the brunt end of a violent altercation, unable to fight back. The Hamilton Spectator reported that in the scuffle Stone had been pushed into a moving car that didn’t stop to offer help.

Badly hurt, Stone walked the few blocks to the emergency room of a Catholic hospital. It was a fruitless effort. He said he was denied care and surmised it was because of who he was, while a nurse reported the department was busy and he was impatient.

“It was not a priority case,” a hospital spokesperson said at the time.

Stone’s parents visited him the next day and insisted he see a doctor. He said he’d wait it out. Calling police to report the incident did not seem like an option, even if his brother was an officer.

That was the last time anyone saw him alive.

Stone was found dead in his bed by friends late the next day, Sept. 20. The exact cause of death was not clear. It could have been an accidental overdose of pain medication, as the newspaper reported. It could have been suicide after his distress of the situation and years of harassment. But given the violent beating he sustained, Stone’s parents and siblings quietly believed he died as a result of his injuries. His death warranted investigation, but it was not to be.

James Stone remembers police visiting his parents in their Hamilton Mountain home and encouraging them to accept Philip’s death as a suicide. An investigation or autopsy would only prolong their grief and pain, they said. The Stones did not push but quietly kept their own conclusion their son died because of the attack and being who he was.

“He just wanted to be himself but society wouldn’t let him,” Bill Powell told the Hamilton Spectator in tears. “They hassled him, they beat him. And he never did anything to anybody.”

Steve Stone, brother of Hamilton artist Philip Stone, has kept numerous prints and newspaper records relating to his brother. Six of Philip Stone's prints are framed and hang in Steve's apartment.

Four decades after Philip Stone was killed, Steve Stone remembers his brother with wonderment and regret. The circumstances around Philip’s death and their disconnected relationship weigh on him.

“That time was not the most compassionate,” he says.

Stone would spend over 40 years as a police officer, and work his way through different rotations, including a long stretch with the vice and drug unit. He was once named officer of the year. One project he headed was 1997’s Project Rosebud, tasked with putting a stop to cruising by gay men in an area of Royal Botanical Gardens.

“It was not something I wanted to do,” Stone says now.

He understood LGBTQ people had few places to go in the city. There were few bars, no community space, minimal social groups and no internet dating. But, police received complaints and he could not turn down the assignment. The project was executed relatively as planned and, out of Stone’s control, a list of those arrested ran in the local newspaper, outing them. Hamilton’s gay community was in uproar and an already tense relationship between the community and the police was increasingly aggravated.

“I’m not proud of (the assignment) now,” Stone says.

Time has a way of allowing people to reconsider. There are things we do in ignorance that are corrected with experience, education and sometimes consequence. Stone looks differently on his brother Philip now. Philip’s life and work is one of Steve’s biggest sources of pride. Framed prints of Philip’s work dominate the walls of Steve’s home.

“He was a walking, talking piece of art,” Stone says, believing their relationship would be different today. “He didn’t fit into our world then.”

With files from Mark McNeil and The Hamilton Spectator

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