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Inside the Rapid Rise, Alleged Frauds, and Sudden Disappearance of the Art World’s Most Wanted Man – Vanity Fair

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In February 2020, the artist Christian Rosa flew to Mexico City for the Zona Maco art fair. The serious dealers who assembled south of the border saw Rosa and assumed he had once again met the global art-party circuit at its latest port of call. The previous October, Rosa had hosted a number of late-nights at his flat in Paris during FIAC. And in May 2019, Rosa opted to drive to the Venice Biennale opening from Switzerland.

But for Rosa, Mexico City was different. He was on the cusp of being represented by OMR, one of the most respected galleries in Roma, and finally he could return to the art world’s good graces after an auspicious debut that led to half a decade in which his works tanked at auction and dealers declined to offer shows. As collectors from New York and Los Angeles climbed the stairs to OMR’s rooftop garden, scaling the brutalist edifice to take in the view of Roma and Condesa, the gallery’s owner, Cristobal Riestra, was taking Rosa around, showing off his the new addition to the artist roster.

The honeymoon did not last long.

“OMR was repping his work. They were the only gallery to really resuscitate his reputation, and he fucked up everything,” said Joseph Ian Henrikson, the founder of the New York gallery Anonymous, who was in town that year to open a show at his Mexico City branch. They had met before, the gallery owner and the artist, and while chatting with Rosa on the roof, Henrikson almost brought up a scotched secondary market deal that nearly involved them both in December 2019. It was a strange offer where a record label executive said he had access to impossible-to-find wave works by Raymond Pettibon, because they were in the collection of Pettibon’s good friend Christian Rosa.

It was a deal that would eventually lead to criminal charges against Rosa that could land him in jail for decades.

“He had an opportunity to get back in the art world again,” Henrikson said this week, 12 days after federal authorities indicted Rosa. “And he just fucked it.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York charged Rosa—he’s referred to by his full name, Christian Rosa Weinberger—with one count of wire fraud conspiracy, one count of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft. The wire fraud charges alone could land him 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence. The aggravated identity theft charge has a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.

The charges stem from what authorities say was an elaborate grifting scheme, first unveiled in my reporting at Artnet earlier this year. (While the press release announcing the indictment cited my reporting, I have not spoken to the Feds.) It allegedly went down like this: Rosa would take unfinished drawings from the studio of Pettibon, his onetime mentor, finish them himself, and then offer them to dealers and advisers as if they were legit. As the indictment lays out in obtained emails and texts, Rosa and at least one associate knew the works were fake and had to create phony certificates of authenticity in order to get the work out into the secondary market.

For a while the alleged grift worked great. One work was bought by a music world macher in L.A. One was said to have been briefly in the collection of the son of a billionaire fashion magnate. But once word was out, Rosa’s downfall was swift—perhaps even preordained. The artist never delivered on the promise of early solo shows at White Cube in London and was naked about his desire for fame. And so when word got out about his alleged criminal activity, the art world, bored in the midst of a pandemic winter, found a heavy helping of schadenfreude in the story of a grifter who needed to rip off collectors with fakes because he couldn’t sell his own original work. Rosa, too, was clearly affected. The day after publication of my earlier piece, according to the indictment, he emailed his partner in his alleged crime to say: “The secret is out.”

Rosa refused to speak to me when reached through mutual friends, though it appears he couldn’t help himself entirely. Gossip spread that Rosa said I should “watch my back,” and that he threatened to get my wife fired from her job. The chatter stopped by the end of February, when I heard he had fled to Europe.

The FBI says it does not currently know where he is. My own attempts to contact him for this column were unsuccessful.

“Mr. Weinberger may believe he escaped justice when he fled the country earlier this year, but the FBI and our partners have international reach and steadfast determination,” FBI assistant director in charge Michael J. Driscoll said in the indictment.

But sources I spoke to following the indictment indicated that Rosa may be hiding in plain sight.

In May 2015, Rosa closed on a new 11,000-square-foot-studio space in the downtown L.A. neighborhood of Boyle Heights. It was the peak of his short-lived but potent ride as the darling of the global art circuit. The June prior, he had a sold-out show at the hipper-than-thou Berlin gallery Contemporary Fine Arts, and his work sent collectors into a frenzy. CFA founder Bruno Brunnet told Bloomberg that he sold a Rosa painting out of the booth at Art Basel in Switzerland for nearly $34,000, and that the demand for the work was at a fever pitch.

“I could have sold it 20 times,” Brunnet said.

Collectors of his work who often swung by the studio included Jay-Z and Leonardo DiCaprio. And in June 2015, he had his first solo show at White Cube, the star-making London gallery founded by YBA cheerleader Jay Jopling. That turned out to be his last show at the gallery, and after one more show at CFA in 2016, he was dropped off the artist roster by January 2019. He needed cash—sources described him as a compulsive spender who gorged on five-figure designer shopping sprees even if he owed months of back rent.

Hanging on the wall of his studio in Boyle Heights were several large works by Pettibon featuring surfers hanging ten. Pettibon had a long come up in the art world’s outskirts, making record covers and flyers for his brother Greg Ginn’s band Black Flag and other SoCal hardcore outfits. But by 2019, Pettibon had been repped for years by a troika of art world potentates: David Zwirner in New York, Shaun Caley Regen in Los Angeles, and Sadie Coles in London. Together they controlled the market while making sure the prices for his striking work—punk in spirit but impressionist in scope—inched higher and higher.

He also continued to show with CFA, the Berlin gallery with a built-in scene that Pettibon had hung with since the ’90s. It was through the gallery in the 2010s that he met Brunnet’s newest rising star, Rosa, and they became fast friends, hanging out at their respective studios and painting each other’s portrait for a show at the Hole gallery in New York. Sources described it as a mentorship. One noted that Rosa would often take Pettibon gambling at his favorite haunt: the dog track.

When Rosa’s purported Pettibon works started making the rounds among art advisers, it wasn’t hard to think that the line from Pettibon to Rosa was entirely plausible.

“I don’t think you would doubt the provenance—there’s a lot of Instagram evidence that they were friends and that he was his mentor,” Henrikson said. “That’s what makes it so fucking sad.”

Henrikson mostly concerns himself with Anonymous, his gallery on Baxter Street, where he’s staged ambitious projects such as shows with 100 sculptures by 100 artists, or group surveys pairing established artists such as Dan Colen with rising stars such as Rose Salane. But Henrikson also does the occasional secondary market deal, and got involved with Rosa’s purported Pettibons when a friend connected him with Jon Lieberberg, a former talent manager at Roc Nation who helped discover the band Haim. Rosa had asked Lieberberg, an old acquaintance, for help selling the work, and the manager—who has a small collection but is in no way an art world power broker—shopped it around to some clients. Completely unaware that the work was compromised, Lieberberg ended up buying what Rosa referred to as Untitled (‘Bail, or bail out…”) (2012), one of the larger of the four works listed in the indictment as forged, for $250,000. (Several sources indicated that Lieberberg could be the “Buyer-1” referred to in the indictment. Lieberberg couldn’t be reached for comment.)

The largest of the four works was apparently called Untitled (“If there is a line…”) (2016), and in December 2019, Lieberberg offered it to Henrikson for around $1.1 million. The dealer lined up a potential buyer, but asked if his client could come view the work somewhere other than the house where it was held—the pictures circulated to dealers were shoddily composed images where the canvas was resting on some AstroTurf. But Rosa refused, saying that all the other potential buyers had come to the house—thus revealing that the work wasn’t exactly being offered exclusively.

“It was complete amateur hour,” Henrikson said. “I was like, ‘Who else are you floating this to?’ I didn’t wanna see something everyone else has seen.”

In the end the deal fell through, partially over the fact that Rosa demanded that the adviser reveal the name of the buyer. He did, and Rosa balked. He said he knew who the collector was, and he didn’t want to sell to a flipper.

Meanwhile, the indictment alleged that, in December 2019, just as the negotiations were heating up, Rosa was facing a desperate crisis: what to do when the buyer asked for proof that it was a Pettibon. According to the FBI, this issue prompted correspondence with an accomplice, who is referred to in the indictment as “Co-conspirator-1.” That month Rosa emailed this person to say, “They’re asking about the certificates, how we’re getting them.”

Co-conspirator-1 asked why the sales were taking so long.

“I am not trying to get busted so that’s why it’s takeing [sic] longer,” Rosa said.

Fast-forward to November 2020. After months of half-hearted pandemic-era auctions, Sotheby’s had put together a brawny run of sales. One highlight of the Contemporary Art Day sale at the house was Pettibon’s Untitled (“never seen the tube…”) (2012), a wave painting estimated to sell for $600,000 to $800,000. It was consigned by the professional poker star Rick Salomon (former husband of Pamela Anderson and former sex-tape partner of Paris Hilton), and its provenance had a patina of authenticity courtesy of Marc Jancou, who first showed Pettibon at his gallery in Zurich in 1992. The auction-lot literature included pictures of similar wave works held in the Whitney and MoMA.

But before the sale, the work was withdrawn. While Sotheby’s refused to comment on why, a source involved with the consignor said that he didn’t pull the work, as often happens when something gets withdrawn. Rather, the Pettibon studio refused to authenticate the work, thus forcing the auction house to treat the work as a fake. When asked why the studio could not authenticate the piece at Sotheby’s, Sozita Goudouna, Pettibon’s head of operations, said in a boilerplate statement that the studio does not respond to requests to authenticate the artist’s work.

Contra to an implication in some recent reporting from my former place of employment, there’s no proof the work pulled from Sotheby’s had anything to do with Rosa; Untitled (“never seen the tube…”) (2016) is not one of the forged Pettibons mentioned in the indictment. Still, word of the studio’s doubts sent shivers down the spines of those with wave paintings that actually did come from Rosa. Indeed, those works also turned out to be deemed not just questionable, but criminal, as the studio went to the authorities with an audacious claim: The Rosa works had been taken from the studio unfinished and then forged, and then offered on the market as if they were real.

News of the accusation traveled through a whisper network until a source sent me images and video of Untitled (“If there is a line…”). The person, an art adviser, had been offered it months earlier, and shopped it to clients thinking it was legit, before hearing in January that it had been deemed a fake.

The studio confirmed to me that the FBI was investigating Rosa. Weeks later, he had fled the country.

There’s a long history of art world criminals going on the lam rather than turning themselves in. Most recently, Inigo Philbrick left the country after allegedly defrauding investors and lenders out of $20 million by double-dipping and selling single works to multiple clients. After a few months he was found in the South Pacific and charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. (Philbrick has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is reportedly in talks with the government to settle the case.)

There’s reason to believe the Feds are homing in on Rosa, or will be soon. Rather than stay quiet on social media, Rosa and his wife, the model Helena Severin, have been quite vigorous posters. There doesn’t seem to be any regard for staying hidden. When asking around to a number of friends and acquaintances about where Rosa might be, many of them said he was in Portugal. Indeed, when Severin posted a number of pictures on Instagram of a girls weekend, one picture depicted her in a car beside a water bottle with the label “Mil Fontes,” indicating that she was possibly at a resort in Vila Nova de Milfontes, a beach town on the Alentejo coast.

There are also indicators that Rosa’s resigned to the fact that he may very well be found. A mutual friend in New York said he recently got a call from Rosa, and Rosa greeted him by calling himself “America’s most wanted.” And soon after the indictment, Rosa posted to his Instagram story a video scored by Kodak Black’s prison anthem, “Too Many Years.” As Rosa drove in his car, PnB Rock sang the hook, which hinges on a single line: “I done gave the jails too many years/Years that I won’t get back.”

The Rundown

Your crib sheet for comings and goings in the art world this week and beyond…

…Curiously, a third of the lots in Christie’s marquee 21st Century Evening Sale next month are all consigned by the same collector, and auction literature refers to the haul—chock-full of Pictures Generation masterworks by Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, and Christopher Wool—as “Image World: Property From a Private American Collection.” We can reveal that the works are actually from two collectors, Cynthia and Abe Steinberger, and their trove of modern treasures could bring them as much as $35 million if the top lots hit their high estimates. Abe Steinberger is a spinal and brain surgeon, and he has long had a practice working alongside another collector-slash-doctor—that would be Frank Moore, who briefly left the operating table to be a director at Gagosian a few years back.

…For 22 years, the Texas-size gala event that is TWO x TWO for Aids and Art has been an annual fundraising powerhouse—Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, along with their fellow hosts, have raised more than $100 million for amfAR and the Dallas Museum of Art in the two-plus decades of the rollicking gala in the Big D. But it’s also a proven indicator of which artists are about to become art-market superstars—the auction component always anoints a few new members of the six-figure club, and they become the artists whom collectors get cutthroat about trying to buy, and dealers start fighting over for representation. At this year’s edition on Saturday, October 23, the young L.A.-based painter Lauren Quin had a painting in the auction estimated to sell for $14,000. It incited a frenzy among the black-tie-clad guests and sold for $210,000. And a painting by the New York– and Oakland-based artist Justin Caguiat was supposed to sell for $35,000 but instead went for $280,000. Keep a close eye on these two.

…Louis Vuitton menswear artistic director Virgil Abloh is a little too busy to book DJ gigs like back in the old days, but he took over the ones and twos at downtown spot Chinese Tuxedo Thursday for a party David Zwirner threw to inaugurate 52 Walker, a new space in Tribeca that will operate as something of a separate entity from his globe-spanning empire of galleries. It’s run by the great gallery director Ebony L. Haynes, who was fully in the scrum in front of Abloh—mask on the whole time, just like former mentor Kanye—as he spun Drake’s snarling CLB track “No Friends in the Industry.” Funny, as Zwirner, who invited dozens of his now fellow Tribeca art dealers to the shindig, has more industry friends than ever before.

…Chef Daniel Boulud threw a chic lunch Wednesday at his namesake four-sparkler for the artist Alex Katz to celebrate the gigantic landscape paintings by Katz that now adorn the restaurant walls. The loan was arranged by the artist and Gladstone Gallery, so naturally, gallery partners Barbara Gladstone and Gavin Brown were present at the lunch too.

Ed Sheeran was spotted filming a new music video in the iconic Richard Rogers tubes of the Pompidou last Thursday in Paris, just days before the “Bad Habits” singer announced that he had tested positive for COVID. Sheeran’s ailment threw his album release plans—including a planned performance on Saturday Night Live—into disarray. Let’s hope any of the nice people who just wanted to see the Georg Baselitz retrospective currently on display steered clear.

…Mitchell-Innes & Nash will open a seasonal pop-up gallery in Miami on November 24, right before the hurricane that is Art Basel Miami Beach arrives in Magic City. It will be in the Design District, steps away from the ICA as well as new Floridian outposts of New York restaurants such as Cote and ZZ’s Clam Bar. Galleries, boîtes, museums—Miami, it’s like Manhattan, but sunny. What’s not to like?

Scene Report: The New Museum’s Triennial Artists Reception

No show takes over downtown Manhattan quite like the New Museum Triennial. Every three years the Bowery institution gives up all of its exhibition space to a group of artists who the curators believe reflect how painting, sculpture, performance, and video is being made right now globally. And it gives a few dozen ambitious minds a chance to work on a scale much grander than that to which they’re accustomed. These young artists are more used to showing at their tiny Lower East Side storefronts scattered around the nearby blocks, and now they get to post up in a museum that usually gives famous artists midcareer surveys. For instance, Ambera Wellmann’s 30-foot-long painting Strobe (2021)—a glorious panorama depicting a riot of bodies fighting, copulating, and getting stoned—couldn’t have gotten through the door at her Eldridge Street gallery, Company, but it fits quite nicely on the walls of one of the world’s great contemporary art concerns.

Naturally, the artists need to be fêted on such an occasion, and the museum’s board was more than happy to plan an artists reception Tuesday, up the street at the Bowery Hotel. As plates of mini tuna burgers circulated, artists such as Kahlil Robert Irving, Rose Salane, Ann Greene Kelly, and others downed martinis, swapped stories about their process, and bonded over the experience of keeping one’s mouth shut after getting tapped for the show. “It’s like you have to make this stuff for a year, not tell anyone, and then the whole city sees it,” said Triennial artist Erin Jane Nelson. At one point one of the artists beckoned over a few others to hit a joint, all in full view of the trustees sitting nearby. Not that the trustees of the New Museum would care about an artist getting a little stoned. As the aroma started to circulate, one older patron remarked to no one in particular, “There’s nothing that smells better than weed.”

And that’s a wrap on this week’s True Colors! Like what you’re seeing? Hate what you’re reading? Have a tip? Drop me a line at nate_freeman@condenast.com.

More Great Stories From Vanity Fair 

— Sparring and Slurring With Gore Vidal
How Pickleball Won Over Everyone From Leonardo DiCaprio to Your Grandparents
— Kate Middleton and Prince William Are Turning Their Sights Toward America
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Love Is a Crime: Inside One of Hollywood’s Wildest Scandals
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— Sign up for “The Buyline” to receive a curated list of fashion, books, and beauty buys in one weekly newsletter.

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Northern Arts Review: Why art is smart investment – Alaska Highway News

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Haley-BassettHello, dear reader. This week, I will cover a big announcement from the BC Arts Council, as well as some ins and outs of the arts grant–writing system, and argue for stronger relationships between local governments and arts organizations for the betterment of the community.

On November 12th, the BC Arts Council announced its Arts Infrastructure Program, with awards up to $250,000, more than three times the usual amount made available through this program. The purpose of this funding is for arts organizations to acquire, construct, or renovate an arts space that will enhance the cultural capacity of the community. There are two other streams for funding as well, worth up to $25,000 for planning and research and $40,000 for acquiring specialized equipment. The deadline is 11:59 PM on Jan. 14, 2022.

The BC Arts Council will host a virtual information session for communities and organizations in the Peace-Liard Region about this program at noon on Dec. 2. This session will include insight on the AIP from Program Officers Erin Macklem and Sarah Todd, as well as a Q&A section.

This grant is a great opportunity that can make a major difference in the region. If successful, it could finance the new arts hub in Fort St. John, a permanent gallery space in Chetwynd, or much needed renovations for the Dawson Creek Art Gallery. This is the second year in a row that BCAC has released funding through this program. However, it is unclear whether it will be offered again, so it is important to seize this opportunity now.

The BC Arts Council has been working to serve rural communities better in recent years, which is why the grant qualifications are slightly relaxed for northern communities. This grant may be up to 90% of the total budget for projects based in rural and remote areas with a small population. As an example, for applicant organizations based in Dawson Creek or Fort St. John, only 10% of the budget needs to come from an additional source. Meaning $25,000 can become $250,000, which is a great investment. On the other hand, the grant can only make up to 75% of the project budget for organizations in communities that don’t qualify as rural or underserved.

These budget splits are often how arts funding works from granting bodies like the BC Arts Council, Canada Arts Council, First Peoples’ Cultural Council, and Creative BC, although the funding component is not usually as high as 90%. Grant-based awards typically cover between 50% to 75% of a project total, which is still incredibly generous. Even with a 50% split, an applicant can double their project budget. The purpose of these splits is to show that the project is feasible, and has support from more than one source. This is something that arts administrators know well, as navigating this grant system is a large part of what they do. However, this point is often lost on local governments, who don’t have close working relationships with these funding sources.

The drawback with opportunities like the the AIP is that it often requires cooperation from municipal governments, who are slow to respond. Often arts spaces are publicly owned, but operated by a non-profit. For example, the Dawson Creek Art Gallery building is owned by the City of Dawson Creek, meaning that the gallery cannot go ahead with an application like this without the city’s support. Historically, the arts have been a blind spot for our local leaders, and this oversight is leaving money on the table, to the detriment of the community.

Understandably, at any given time there are many other pressing needs demanding the attention of local politicians—the pandemic, for example. The cultural revitalization of our communities slips lower down the priority list. However, this needn’t be the case. What is needed to allocate funds efficiently is simply an understanding that the arts and its funding system is a complex industry with many opportunities that require specific expertise and knowledge to capitalize on. This is why local governments need to work closely with arts organizations, and be more responsive to them, so that when opportunities like the Arts Infrastructure Program arise, both parties are prepared to make the best of them. That way, we can bet small and win big for the communities we serve.


Do you have an artistic endeavour you would like to promote? Is there a topic you would like me to discuss? I would love to hear from you! Please email me at programs@dcartgallery.ca.

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44th annual Penticton Art Auction set for early December – Penticton Western News – Penticton Western News

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After almost two years of adjusting on the fly and being forced to reschedule events, the Penticton Art Gallery is set to go ahead with the 44th annual art auction on Dec. 5.

The gallery is giving people the opportunity for a sneak peek on the evening of Dec. 3 so that they can explore all the art that is being sold.

The weekend-long event doesn’t have to wait though. Online pre-bidding opened on July 26 and is set to end 24 hours prior to the start of the live auction.

This year’s event will be conducted both in-person and virtually, via Zoom, and anyone attending the live auction at the gallery will be required to show proof of vaccination.

“If you don’t have a vaccine passport and would like to arrange a private viewing, please contact the gallery and we can make alternative arrangements,” said Penticton Art Gallery Director Paul Crawford.

Among the items available for auction include Andy Warhol pieces from his “Marilyn” series. The opening bid for the Warhol items was $1,500, with an estimated value of $5,000. After Marilyn Monroe’s death in 1967, the artist began to work on his now-famous series.

This year’s auction at the gallery will contain no shortage of historic items available for sale. James Irwin’s NASA flight suit is also up for auction, with an opening bid of $4,500 and an estimated value that the gallery calls “priceless.”

A woolly mammoth tusk rounds out the gallery’s list of “priceless” items but in this case, the piece had an opening bid of $1,750.

READ MORE: Mammoth finds at 44th annual Penticton Art Gallery auction

To view the complete list of available items, the gallery asks that you visit pentictonartgallery.com/annual-art-auction.

“The Penticton Art Gallery champions the transformative power of the Arts through an annual program of thought-provoking exhibitions,” said the gallery’s director.

Crawford said in the latest bi-monthly gallery newsletter that they’ve seen a 60 per cent reduction in revenue over the last 18 months that they had previously earned through a number of fundraising programs, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite that, he told the Penticton Western News on Thursday that even though he doesn’t know what to expect out of this year’s auction, he’s excited about the gallery’s immediate future.

“As we come to the end of the year, I hope you can help support the Gallery through the purchase of one of our Soup Bowl packages, a work from our Under $500 Exhibition + Sale, Annual Art Auction, the purchase of a membership, early bird tickets to the 2022 Ignite the Arts Festival, or a charitable donation this year,” he wrote in the letter.

READ MORE: Ignite the Arts Festival gets Penticton council’s blessing and funding

Successful bidders will be notified via email within 48 hours of the auction’s closing.

The live auction begins on Dec. 5 at 1 p.m., with the deadline for registration coming on Dec. 4 at 4 p.m.

As of Nov. 25, the auction has raised $8,295, which is 33 per cent of the gallery’s goal for the event.

To register for the live auction, email info@pentictonartgallery.com.

In addition, to get in on the pre-bidding festivities virtually, you can visit 32auctions.com/PAG2021.


@lgllockhart
logan.lockhart@pentictonwesternnews.com

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Black British painting, gay New York photography and Dr Eno will see you now – the week in art – The Guardian

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Black British painting, gay New York photography and Dr Eno will see you now – the week in art  The Guardian



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