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Celebrity Art
by Baird Jones
  There's a hot new lady painter on the scene -- Tama Janowitz. The Slaves of New York scribe has been painting up a storm in her new sprawling penthouse in Brooklyn (directly across from the Brooklyn Museum). The 42-year-old Barnard grad's painterly inspiration might be described as a cross between the floating Surrealist imagery of Marc Chagall, the biomorphic forms of Paul Klee and the light touch of Alexander Calder -- though one critic noted that the repetitive use of fish in her imagery made him think of a Greek restaurant. Janowitz's next novel, A Certain Age (Doubleday), is due in July. The satire follows a social-climbing girl who works at a Manhattan auction house and gets desperate at 32 when she can't snag a rich husband. Janowitz's own spouse, Brit Tim Hunt, works as a curator at the Andy Warhol Foundation in Manhattan and can often be spotted doing the gallery rounds pushing their adopted Asian daughter Willow in her stroller.

A London crook used a credit card stolen from James Bond star Sean Connery to try to pull off a £250,000 art sting, according to Fleet Street sources. Posing as the actor's art agent, the gold-fingered conman calmly walked into the Kapil Jariwala gallery in New Burlington Street and used Connery's credit card to buy a £250,000 painting by 20th-century British artist Laurence Stephen Lowry. He asked for it to be delivered to an Edinburgh hotel on the day of the Scottish Parliament elections. At first it seemed to add up -- Connery has been active in the elections -- but the gallery staff double-checked with Connery's people and discovered the sting in time. Police are investigating.

At the packed Philip Taaffe reception at Gagosian in SoHo on May 15, Alex Katz was sharing the secrets of his success with a coterie of fans, including a wallflowerish Claire Danes and her beau, Australian rocker Ben Lee, as well as fellow artists David Salle, Jeff Koons, Andres Serrano and Brice Marden, and poet Taylor Mead and ex-Mudd Club owner Steve Mass. Katz explained, "Sometimes I go weeks without painting at all, and then when I can envision what I want to paint, I become a painting machine, and I finish the canvas in three hours. Otherwise, I just spend my time making sketches, almost unconsciously. It's as if making sketches is using my senses, like seeing rather than actively making something."

Taylor Mead told us that Celebrity Art's recent report that Andy Warhol wanted to lick the feet of poet John Giorno was "right on." The Warhol superstar, who now has his own website at, insisted, "John would never make something like that up and it totally fits the Andy I knew to want to do something like that."

Punk-era nightclub kingpin Steve Mass reminisced about the days when Keith Haring worked the Mudd Club door and Jean-Michel Basquiat was a regular visitor in the celebrity lounge. The legendary anecdotes about Haring painting whole room installations for "25 bucks and can of black paint" were completely false, Mass confessed. "Keith never did wall paintings at the Mudd Club, he got together curations, he got Basquiat to paint a wall once, but he organized the shows rather than tagging the space directly." The Mudd Club is now the downstairs two floors of Ross Bleckner's White Street digs.

Still a few days to bid on four different topless photo-postcards of Jeff Koons' ex-wife Illona Staller, signed "Ciccolina." Starting price for these trophies of the blonde Italian porn star and parlimentarian is $80. Contact R&R Enterprises in Bedford, N.H., at (800) 937-3880.

Robert DeNiro lost his father in 1993, but the actor remains a devoted son. DeNiro showed up at the mobbed opening last week for the paintings of Robert DeNiro Sr. at the Gerald Piltzer Gallery on the Rue Matignon in Paris. The colorful neo-Matissean canvases sold briskly at around $80,000 apiece. Last year, the actor had vowed never to return to France after a local magistrate had needlessly snarled him in a local prostitution investigation. Thousands showed up for the opening at Piltzer. DeNiro is represented in New York at Salander O'Reilly on 79th Street.

"I adore Rome. You can't possibly imagine the painful intensity of living surrounded by masterpiece after masterpiece by such geniuses as Michelangelo, Tintoretto, Bernini and Caravaggio. At times I become so overwhelmed I almost faint. And by the way, I absolutely love pasta." -- Painter Mark Kostabi on why he now lives every other month in Rome

Andy Warhol superstar Ultra Violet reminisced, "I had a topless scene and I put tape on my nipples and Andy filmed for hours. When it came time to remove the tape, I'd use the wrong kind and it tore at the soft flesh. I almost tore one nipple off and I had to go to the hostpital to get a stitch, which Andy thought was very funny, but he did not capture it on film."

At the Whitney Museum, painter Brice Marden told me that he had done the sound recording for the classic Jimi Hendrix performance in the movie Monterrey Pop. "I was a painter and I never had even held a tape recorder," he said. "The buzz at Monterrey was all Jimi Hendrix. The scene there was like an all-day carnival with theatrical performances, juggling, and games going all day and night. But during the morning when Jimi Hendrix was doing his sound check for an hour, everything froze. None of us had ever heard of him, but people started talking about this guy who was using feedback like you have never heard, he's not trying to get rid of it, he's trying to make it louder. He' s sound-checking feedback. As we watched the rumor just spread through the crowd that Jimi intended to light his guitar on fire and keep playing it. We were going to hear the sound of electric fire. When he did it that night, everyone at the concert knew it was going to happen and we are all waiting. But we had no sense of history. I never suspected that a film would be made from the sounds I was collecting even though the director Richie Leacock was totally professional. It seemed more like everyone was on acid waiting for the concert to end so they could run off to a Be In at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. When it was all over and I headed back to New York what I remember was feeling grateful that I got a free plane ticket to the West Coast. I don't think I figured I would ever hear of Hendrix again. In fact, the memorable legend there was Otis Redding."

Metropolitan Museum of Art vice president Ashton Hawkins has rented his island home in Patmos, Greece, to Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson for the summer. It's a six-figure deal, I hear.

Update: That auction of left-behind stuff at Burt Reynolds' former dinner theater in Florida netted some fancy prices -- not. A picture of Burt and Loni Anderson fetched $10; Burt and Groucho Marx, $20; Burt and the pope, $50.

BAIRD JONES can be reached at

In the bookstore:
Philip Taaffe: Composite Nature

Brice Marden Drawings: The Whitney Museum Of American Art Collection