TICKET SCAM AT WHITNEY MUSEUM
Two ticket-takers at the Whitney Museum of American Art have been nabbed in a $880,000 ticket scam in which the pair erased records of ticket sales and pocketed the money themselves. On July 29, 2004, Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau announced the indictment of Naseem Wahlah, the museums manager of visitor services, and Rowan Foley, a museum supervisor. Wahlah is charged with stealing $850,000 and Foley with stealing $30,000 between January 2002 and July 2004. The museum has recovered $800,000 in cash that Wahlah had in a safe at her home.
The museum nabbed the pair after it hired former New York City police chief Howard Safirs investigative firm, Safir Rosetti, which planted three hidden video cameras in the museum, two behind the ticket counter and one in the money-counting room. According to the charges, Wahlah was caught on tape stuffing cash in her purse, while Foley is seen putting cash into his pocket. Safir Rosetti is now conducting an overall evaluation of the Whitneys management systems.
Wahlah has been indicted for grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison; Foley faces lesser charges that could bring him seven years in prison. The Whitney has approximately 700 to 1,000 visitors daily, generating as much as $20,000 in cash each day.
ART & INVESTMENT AT "ART + AUCTION"
The art world is now on formal notice -- Wall Street is coming! If any proof were needed, look no further than this Augusts Art + Auction magazine, a special issue on the theme of "investing in art." All of the magazines heavy-hitters check in on the subject, including Judd Tully, Souren Melikian, Godrey Barker and Jori Finkel. Additionally, an article by Thomas and Charles Danziger looks at private foundations (like the one that launched the Guggenheim Museum); a report by Margery Gordon examines the art-insurance industry, post 9/11; and a story by Marc Spiegler relates "inside tips" from four art advisors (Darlene Lutz, Mary Zlot, Lionel Pissarro and Timothy Sammons).
Perhaps todays premiere art-auction reporter, Judd Tully notes the extraordinary run-up in prices of specific paintings by John Currin (1,300 percent in two years) and Richard Prince (1,000 percent in five and a half years), but also reports that top art experts like Robert Mnuchin of C&M Arts take "a skeptical view of investing in art." Former Bloomberg News ace reporter Nina Siegal (who has left the financial news company to work on a novel) examines two high-end art investment funds, the London-based Fine Art Fund and Fernwood Art Investments, recently profiled here [see "Artnet News," July 22, 2004]. "Its easy to make money buying and selling art, but you have to be fluid and light on your feet," says a read-out in the article.
Souren Melikian, the dean of art-market reporters, cautions that the art market cant be rationalized, because each artwork is unique. "One Picasso picture does not equal another Picasso picture," he writes. "There is no true precedent in the art market. You can only guess and hope." But it is left to Godfrey Barker, another top British art writer, to play Cassandra most thoroughly, by reminding his readers of the art-market crash of the 1980s. Easy as it is to find grand run-ups in value, he notes, its "even easier to come up with artworks that went down in value or could not be sold at all." Required reading, even for art dealers at the beach!
IMMENDORFF ILLNESS POSTPONES TRIAL
The trial in Düsseldorf of German Neo-Expressionst painter Jörg Immendorff on 27 counts of cocaine possession got underway on July 20 and immediately became a major tabloid spectacle. Last year, a spurned prostitute turned Immendorff in to the police, who caught him in the middle of a sex-and-drugs party at the Steigenberger Park Hotel, lying naked on the bed surrounded by nine ladies of the night [see "Artnet News," Aug. 27, 2003].
The artist, who suffers from ALS (Lou Gehrigs Disease), says he doesnt have sex with the women but only uses them for his erotic fantasies. He has been suspended from the Düsseldorf Art Academy, where he teaches, and doctors say his condition is dire, with his breathing already 32 percent under capacity. In March, Immendorff founded the Jörg Immendorff Scholarship for the Research of the Cause and Therapy for ALS at the Berlin Charité hospital, which will give a doctor/scientist the opportunity to research the disorder over a period of two years.
On July 27, the first of several prostitutes at Immendorffs sex-and-drugs party was called to testify. The prosecution hopes to prove that the artist supplied drugs to others, a more serious charge. But the witness, who is named Patrizia, was of limited use, saying that Immendorff didnt offer the women drugs, though she and the others took it behind his back "when he wasnt looking." She also claimed she didnt know she was there as a hooker, but found 300 in her purse as "taxi money."
The trial has faced several delays, first after one of the prostitute-witnesses failed to appear and then, more importantly, when Immendorff became too ill to continue. He was examined in the courtroom by a doctor, and a court spokesman said that he should no longer be filmed or photographed because of his declining health.
The trial is expected to continue through next week. If convicted, Immendorff faces a year in prison and loss of his professorship at the art academy.
LOUISE MACBAIN BUYS "GALLERY GUIDE"
Canadian publishing millionaire Louise MacBain has added the Gallery Guide to her art-magazine empire, which also includes Art + Auction magazine (bought in 2003) and Museums Magazine (bought in 2004). MacBains LTB Holding Ltd. has acquired Art Now Inc., which publishes seven regional editions of the Gallery Guide, covering New York, Boston and New England, Chicago and the Midwest, the West Coast, Philadelphia and the mid-Atlantic, the Southeast, and the Southwest. In New York, the small monthly booklet is an indispensable guide to current gallery shows, and is usually available for free in galleries. The company also maintains a website at www.galleryguide.org. Terms of the deal werent disclosed, but Gallery Guide founder and publisher Roger Peskin is expected to stay on.
"ART ON PAPER" SOLD TO EDITOR
The struggling Art on Paper magazine -- which briefly suspended publication last summer and then resumed its bi-monthly schedule with a new staff -- has now been sold by publisher Gabriella Fanning to a new company formed by Peter Nesbett, Art on Papers editor for the last year or so. Nesbett heads Darte Publishing, the magazines new owner; he has been joined by much of the existing staff, including managing editor Sarah Andress, advertising chief Jeff Potter, ad rep Laura Gencarella and art director Fabio Cutro.
Nesbett, who co-founded the Harlem exhibition space Triple Candie three years ago with his wife, Shelly Bancroft (who continues to direct the gallery), said he paid less than $100,000 for the magazine. "I believe in Art on Paper, he said. "I think it fills an invaluable niche in the art world."
Art on Paper began life in 1970 as The Print Collectors Newsletter; it was bought by Fanning Publishing and redubbed On Paper in 1996, and given its current moniker in 98. Its July-August issue has stories on Philip Taaffe, Wangechi Mutu and Fred Wilson; the forthcoming September-October issue includes reports on Robert Rymans early works, art historian Carol Armstrongs photos of Cézannes studio and Gabriel Orozcos photographs. The magazines new offices are at 150 W. 28th Street, closer to Manhattans Chelsea art district (and about one-third of the cost of the previous Madison Avenue quarters); for more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
GREENBERG VAN DOREN NEWS
Artemis Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, located at 730 Fifth Avenue since 1999, has changed its name to Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, reflecting the continuing partnership between Ronald Greenberg and John Van Doren. Dorsey Waxter continues as gallery director. At the same time, the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery in St. Louis has announced its move to 3540 Washington Avenue, a relocation that is part of the cultural revitalization of downtown St. Louis. Artemis Fine Arts is the prestigious Old Master firm with offices in New York, London, Paris and Düsseldorf (C.G. Boerner).
"BOMB" MAGAZINE MOVES TO BROOKLYN
Bomb magazine, the 30-year-old publication that specializes in down-and-dirty interviews with artists, is moving to a new "arts building" in Brooklyn. Bomb is taking its place in the James E. Davis Art Building at 80 Hanson Place, a building owned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and designed to become a thriving center for 20 nonprofit performing and visual arts groups. Other tenants include Bang on a Can, Creative Outlet Dance Theatre and Franklin Furnace. For more info, contact Victoria@bombsite.com
VIOLA FREY, 1933-2004
Viola Frey, 71, ceramist known for monumental, intensely colored figurative sculptures, died in San Francisco on July 26, 2004. Born in Lodi, Calif., Frey studied at Tulane University with George Rickey and Mark Rothko; she joined the faculty of the California College of the Arts in 1965, where she most recently served as chair of the ceramics program. Her work was seen in a traveling retrospective organized at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento in 1981, and she had a solo show at the Whitney Museum in 1984. She has been represented by Rena Bransten gallery in San Francisco and Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York.
Contact wrobinson @ artnet.com