ART AND THE EMPERORS CLUB
As every person in the United States knows, New York governor Eliot Spitzer has been busted for taking advantage of the pricey services of a call-girl ring called the Emperors Club. This astonishing revelation, and Spitzer’s subsequent resignation from office, has been headline news for several days. Now, it turns out the story has a fine art angle.
As the now-defunct website for Emperors Club VIP boasts, its elite clients are CEOs and "high-net-worth individuals," with an "average income of $1 million to $30 million a year." What do such powerful individuals do with their cash, aside from spending $6,000 an hour on prostitutes? Why, collect art, of course!
As it turns out, the company that ran Emperors Club VIP, the Emperors Publishing Media Group, also runs a parallel website titled Emperors Club Contemporary Art (the website remained live as of publishing time). The firm claims to link artists and dealers with "the ultra-affluent market (millionaires and billionaires) and some of the richest people in the world," and give meaning to their super-rich clients’ lives as well. "One of the many ways by which we create and add special value to already extraordinarily affluent lives," the website says, "is by enabling direct access to some of the world’s most captivating, authentic contemporary art available."
Upon becoming members -- the exact cost remains unclear -- clients supposedly have access to "exclusive" art auctions. The commission is 15 percent on the first $100,000, and 10 percent on sums above that.
And what kind of art was favored by Emperors Club Contemporary Art clientele? Several pages dedicated to artworks trumpet pieces by the likes of Carl Andre, John Chamberlain, Gregory Crewdson, Hilary Harkness, Jeff Koons, Vera Lutter, Richard Prince, David Salle, Andrew Wyeth and Dr. Hugo Heyrman.
Each artist has his or her own entry (most are male), complete with illustrations of two works and prose descriptions taken from press releases, catalogue and reviews by notables like David Cohen, Ken Johnson, Jerry Saltz, Roberta Smith, and, in one case at least, Wikipedia.
The site also includes ads from upscale art firms, including Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonham’s, as well as Maison Gerard and Baccarat. Magazines linked on the site are American Art Collector and Elite Traveler.
The layout is pretty fancy -- and comically echoes the format of escort pages on the now-infamous Emperors Club VIP website. It could almost be an elaborate joke. In any case, somebody at Emperors Publishing knows a thing or two about contemporary art.
When contacted by Artnet News, Gerard Widdershoven of Maison Gerard said that he knew nothing about the connection, and certainly wasn’t involved with the site. "It’s hysterical," he said.
The artist James Casebere also expressed surprise at the connection. "I don’t know anything about it," he said. "But a local TV station contacted my studio earlier today and asked if I wanted to go on TV and express outrage, or something."
Calls and emails for more info from Emperors Club Contemporary Art were not immediately returned. However, given the fact that it was the arrest of the four principles in Emperors Publishing Media Group by the FBI that led the scandal to break in the first place, it seems unlikely that any auctions are taking place in the near future. Stay tuned.