Brazen

From Hunter Biden’s Life as an Artist to a Brazen Theft at an Italian TV Station: The Best and Worst of the Art World This Week


Hunter Biden, Unfiltered – The first son spoke to Midnight Publishing Group News’s Katya Kazakina about his newfound love of painting, and how it’s helping him in his quest for “universal truth.”

Robert Indiana Estate Reaches Settlement – The extensive lawsuits embroiling the late artist’s estate and financial backer came to an end after three long years.

MacKenzie Scott Donates Billions – The ex-wife of Jeff Bezos just gave out $2.7 billion in grants with millions going toward worthy arts organizations.

Reflecting on AIDS and Identity – Artist and activist Gregg Bordowitz spoke to Midnight Publishing Group News’s Pac Pobric about the multifaceted nature of individuals and advocating for all parts of himself and others.

Source Code for the World Wide Web Hits the Block – The inventor of the Internet’s source code is selling it as an NFT, and bidding starts at just $1,000.

Mini Pompeii Discovery – Construction workers in Verona unearthed extraordinary Roman frescoes buried beneath a defunct.

Obama Portraits on Tour – Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s striking portraits of President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama are going on an 11-month tour, kicking off in Chicago.

Manhattan D.A. Returns Looted Objects – A whopping 27 looted artifacts worth $3.8 million were returned to Cambodia.

Authorities Raid Hong Kong Show – Police were called to an art show commemorating the 2019 pro-democracy protests over a complaint of “seditious” content.

Police Allege Unhappy Employees Stole Art – Authorities say that disloyal employees likely stole around 120 pieces of art that once hung around the Italian offices of broadcasting company Rai.

Artists Decry New Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws – Hungary’s new anti-LGBTQ+ laws are drawing ire from artists and activists around the country.

Notre Dame Still Needs More Money – Since the devastating fire in 2019, the church has raised almost $1 billion, but says it needs more.

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How a Brazen Hack of That $69 Million Beeple Revealed the True Vulnerability of the NFT Market (and Other Insights)


Every Wednesday morning, Midnight Publishing Group News brings you The Gray Market. The column decodes important stories from the previous week—and offers unparalleled insight into the inner workings of the art industry in the process.

This week, clawing down another art-tech rabbit hole…

 

MINT CONDITION

In the opening days of April, an artist operating under the pseudonym Monsieur Personne (“Mr. Nobody”) tried to short-circuit the NFT hype machine by unleashing “sleepminting,” a process that complicates, if not corrodes, one of the value propositions underlying non-fungible tokens. His actions raise thorny questions about everything from coding, to copyright law, to consumer harm. Most importantly, though, they indicate that the market for crypto-collectibles may be scaling up faster than the technological foundation can support.

Debuted as part of an ongoing project titled NFTheft, sleepminting serves as a benevolent but alarming crypto-counterfeiting exercise. It aims to show that an artist can be made to unconsciously assert authorship on the Ethereum blockchain just as surely as a sleepwalking disorder can compel someone to waltz out of their bedroom while in a deep doze.

Remember, to “mint” an NFT means to register a particular user as its creator and initial owner. Theoretically, this becomes the first link in a verified, unbreakable chain of custody tethered to an NFT for the life of the underlying blockchain network. Thanks to this perfectly complete, perfectly secure, and eternally checkable data record, the argument goes, potential buyers can trust non-fungible tokens without necessarily having to trust their owners or sellers. These traits add a valuable layer of security that traditional artworks could never rival with their eternally dubious off-chain certificates of authenticity and provenance documents.

Personne may have found a way to dynamite this argument for much of the art NFT market. Sleepminting enables him to mint NFTs for, and to, the crypto wallets of other artists, then transfer ownership back to himself without their consent or knowing participation. Nevertheless, each of these transactions appears as legitimate on the blockchain record as if the unwitting artist had initiated them on their own, opening up the prospect of sophisticated fraud on a mass scale.

To prove his point, on April Fool’s Day, Personne sleepminted a supposed “second edition” of Beeple’s record-smashing Everydays: The First 5,000 Days, the digital work and accompanying token that sold for a vertigo-inducing $69.3 million via Christie’s less than a month earlier. (My emails to Beeple and his publicist about the situation went unanswered.)

In our ensuing email exchange, Personne claimed he then gifted the sleepminted Beeple (Token ID 40914, for the real crypto-heads) to a user with the suspiciously appropriate handle Arsène Lupin, an homage to the famous “gentleman thief” created by Maurice Leblanc and recently reincarnated in a hit Netflix show. (Personne denied he was Lupin to the blog Nifty News.) Lupin then turned around and offered the sleepminted Beeple for sale on Rarible and Opensea, two of the largest NFT marketplaces—both of which eventually deactivated the listings. (Neither Rarible nor Opensea replied to my emails seeking comment.)

Why publicize any of this, you ask? Personne essentially sees himself as a so-called white hat hacker, meaning an ethics-driven coder who exploits technological flaws strictly to demonstrate how they can be fixed. He is a staunch believer in the potential of NFTs and crypto. However, he believes major “security issues and vulnerabilities” in smart contracts have been glossed over to make way for the gold rush. He also claimed to have launched the NFTheft project only after the crypto-community largely ignored or derided his attempts to spark earnest conversation.

The goal I want to achieve with this is to take the most expensive and historic NFT, and show that if it is not protected, how can we guarantee that any NFT is safe from intentional malice, fraud, forgeries, theft, etc.?” he wrote.

Although the sleepminting saga is hairier than a Haight-Ashbury commune, I think we can chop through the overgrowth using two questions with serious stakes for different participants in the NFT market. 

Screen grab of the NFTheft website showing details of the "sleepminted" token.

Screen grab of the NFTheft website showing details of the “sleepminted” token.

1. What does sleepminting tell us about the technological vulnerabilities of art-related NFTs?

 

Short Answer

The main smart contract driving the market might not be smart enough to secure the frenzied level of buying and selling we’ve seen in 2021.

 

Longer Answer

What’s clear is that Personne is exploiting a flaw in the standard ERC721 smart contract, which is used by the overwhelming majority of art-related NFTs transacting on the Ethereum blockchain. But it is not an easy-to-see flaw, and the effect is not being faked by Photoshop wizardry or some other non-crypto chicanery; the sleepminted Beeple really is minted in Beeple’s wallet, it really is transferred elsewhere afterwardand both of those transactions are memorialized forever on the blockchain. 

How, exactly, is Personne doing this at the level of code? He declined to elaborate, saying only that he would publicly reveal the details before initiating the next stage of the NFTheft project. Other crypto-fluent folks I talked to needed more time to investigate than my deadline would allow. But Personne revealed in one tweet that he had deployed a “custom-built” contract that did not have an unnamed ERC721 “security check in place,” allowing him to move the token from wallet to wallet without meeting the typical conditions (for instance, a buyer sending funds to meet a set sales price).

Good luck identifying the flaw, though. Kevin McCoy, the creator of the first NFT, tried running Personne’s sleepminting smart contract through a decompiler to get more insight into the source code. His highly technical, highly candid snap take on the results was that they were “fucking crazy” with “all kinds of shit going on,” but he could not decipher the actual function responsible for the mischief.

What McCoy could detect was that Personne’s customization was substantially larger and more expensive to deploy than a typical ERC721. The sleepminting contract consists of around 4,000 lines of code and cost 1.04 ETH, or about $2,500, in gas fees—roughly 12.5 times as much as it would usually cost to mint an average ERC721 token, if not more. (“Gas fees” are the term of art for the expenses charged to conduct a transaction on the Ethereum blockchain, with the price changing based on the network’s available computational resources.)

A courtroom sketch of Domenico De Sole on the witness stand with the fake Rothko painting he bought from Knoedler gallery. His case, which was separate from the one that jus settled, was the only one to go to trial. Photo: Elizabeth Williams, courtesy Illustrated Courtroom.

A courtroom sketch of Domenico De Sole on the witness stand with the fake Rothko painting he bought from Knoedler gallery. Photo: Elizabeth Williams, courtesy Illustrated Courtroom.

Why It Matters

Sleepminting is likely more sophisticated than the average NFT buyer’s understanding of the technology, making those buyers unlikely to question what appears to be blockchain-verified authorship.

This is especially important because we’re in a market frenzy for NFTs right now. Thorough vetting falls by the wayside whenever under-informed buyers flood into a largely unregulated space. Fraudsters have made millions in the past selling fake Jackson Pollocks on eBay, and the Knoedler forgery scandal proved that even knowledgeable collectors can be susceptible to high-level chicanery.  

I can’t rule out that a savvy crypto-collector might be able to detect a giveaway in either a sleepminting contract or its data trail. It’s also true that, even without Personne publicizing what he’d done, market players could use off-chain research to find out whether Beeple actually minted a second edition of Everydays—just as, say, Warhol collectors could consult the catalogue raisonné to make sure a particular Marilyn canvas is regarded as authentic.

Still, if bad actors began exploiting vulnerabilities in ERC721 contracts, it could theoretically plunge the NFT market into a forgery crisis on par with the antiquities market, where recent research showed that up to 80 percent of what is offered online is likely either looted or fake. 

Incidentally, Personne alleges that 80 percent of the NFTs on the market are “invalid and need to be redone” because of their vulnerability to sleepminting. That’s a difficult estimate to corroborate. But even if he’s overshooting by two or three times, the financial exposure would swell to millions of dollars in art-related NFTs alone. Isn’t that a prospect worth investigating?

A courtroom setup awaiting a witness. Photo: Friso Gentsch/dpa (Photo by Friso Gentsch/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A courtroom setup awaiting a witness. Photo: Friso Gentsch/dpa (Photo by Friso Gentsch/picture alliance via Getty Images)

2. Does sleepminting violate any U.S. laws? 

 

Short Answer

The legal exposures are murky and hard to act on, but they exist. In a way, that’s the point.

 

Longer Answer

At present, NFTs still occupy a legal gray zone. As of my writing, multiple cases pending in the U.S. could influence their ultimate classification. What’s unclear is how much immunity a sleepminter would have based on the lingering ambiguity.

Personne told me that, after being “thoroughly consulted and advised by personal lawyers and specialist law firms,” he is confident there are “little to no legal repercussions for sleepminting.” His argument is that ERC721 smart contracts only contain a link pointing to a JSON (Javascript Object Notation) file, which in turn points to a “publicly available and hosted digital asset file”here, Beeple’s Everydays image. (Remember, the NFT is almost never the artwork itself.)

He likened the idea of suing him to the “absurd” prospect of Apple suing “every single pedestrian for viewing or photographing their billboard in Times Square.” 

But multiple prominent art attorneys I spoke to felt Personne is standing on shakier legal ground. “If the hacker is not trying to pass the sleepminted work off as authentic and charging money for it, then he is probably not in any danger of being charged with criminal fraud,” said Steven Schindler. “If he were to be misrepresenting the nature of the NFT, and selling the works under false pretenses, then he would certainly be open to charges of fraud.”

But fraud isn’t the only issue at play here. Let’s return to Personne’s contention that the token merely points to a publicly viewable digital file. Querying the blockchain seems to show that the original Everydays NFT and Personne’s sleepminted “second edition” have two different URIs—essentially, the alphanumeric code identifying the actual image file that the token grants ownership to. This implies he downloaded the original file and re-uploaded it to a different online location. 

Further, it looks like he did so without making any changes to the work that could be positioned as “transformative,” like, say, Richard Prince cropping out the Marlboro ad copy in his Cowboys” photographs, or adding nonsensical comments to other people’s Instagram selfies in his New Portraits” series. (Two copyright infringement cases on the latter are currently pending in the Southern District of New York.)

Richard Prince. Photo: Patrick McMullan

So even though the sleepminted token is not the artwork, it still needs to point to the artwork in order to mean anything. If Personne made this happen by reuploading an unaltered digital copy of Beeple’s Everydays, as the URI suggests, then that could very well still qualify as unauthorized reproduction of an artwork whose copyright Beeple still owns.

In short, it’s possible a court could find him liable to be “in violation of Beeple’s exclusive right to publicly display his work,” according to Megan Noh, co-chair of art law at Pryor Cashman.

Personne may also be running afoul of what’s known as the Lanham Act, specifically a clause known as “false designation of origin.” Remember, the entire point of sleepminting is that its unauthorized attribution to Beeple appears legitimate on the blockchain. These claims are reasserted in the details of the sleepminted token on the NFTheft website (“Creator: Beeple (b. 1981)”) as well as the listings on Rarible and Opensea. 

The ‘statements’ on the website and/or created by the intentionally-manipulated metadata feel a lot like ‘false designations of origin,’ which could give rise to liability,” Noh said. “But there’s also an interesting question about whether an NFT can be considered a ‘good or service,’ which it would need to be for this area of the law to apply.”

Screen grab of the Rarible listing for the sleepminted token, showing the current owner as Arsene Lupin and the creator as Beeple.

Screen grab of the Rarible listing for the sleepminted token, showing the current owner as Arsene Lupin and the creator as Beeple.

Why It Matters

Personne’s copious public proclamations that the sleepminted NFT was not, in fact, authorized by Beeple may not protect him in a U.S. court—precisely because he engineered the blockchain to say otherwise. If a sleepminted token truly made it out “in the wild,” as Personne told me it did, then his exposure could only increase as the token moved through the secondary market to buyers who may be less aware of the NFTheft site, his social media presence, and any other links back to his white-hat rhetoric. 

That said, anyone who wanted to sue Personne would likely first have to untangle his identity, since it’s not easy to bring a pseudonymous party to court. Again, good luck.

Incidentally, this is one of the reasons it still seems unlikely to me that Lupin, the pseudonymous owner of the sleepminted NFT, is anyone other than the same person behind… uh, Personne. The best way to protect yourself from misunderstandings by subsequent owners is to ensure there are never actually any subsequent owners. 

Debating the legality of this particular episode misses the larger point, though. 

The NFTheft project aims to show that a gigantic proportion of the art NFT market is vulnerable to such malicious intent because of a structural flaw in the standard smart contract. If Personne were a bad actor, he could have sleepminted a much less famous NFT, kept quiet about his custom smart contract, and started selling directly to the most naive buyers he could find. That real people could be tricked into losing real money, and that anyone undertaking the ruse could plausibly be found liable for damages, reinforce why Personne’s gambit is worth our attention. 

We have already seen sophisticated hacks siphon tens, even hundreds, of millions of dollars out of cryptocurrency exchanges, decentralized financial entities, and blockchain-based “smart” organizations. Maybe it was only a matter of time before someone figured out a way to do the same to the part of the NFT marketplace that relies on ERC721 contracts. The question is whether the biggest and most influential players will take action before the black hats dig in.

[NFTheft]

 

That’s all for this week. ‘Til next time, remember what Upton Sinclar said: It is difficult to get someone to understand something when their salary depends on them not understanding it.

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Embattled Dealer Accused of Brazen Heist, Frieze NY to Open for Vaccinated Fairgoers, & More Juicy Art World Gossip


Every week, Midnight Publishing Group News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops reported and written by Nate Freeman. If you have a tip, email Nate at [email protected]

 

BUSINESS NOT BOOMING

The pandemic year in America has not been especially kind to Robert Blumenthal. Last March, the collector-turned-dealer entered into a legal entanglement with Derek Fordjour, claiming that the in-demand artist—who just last month solidified his blue-chip status by joining David Kordansky Gallery out West in addition to his New York reps, Petzel—owed him $1.45 million after a 2014 deal in which Blumenthal paid $20,000 for 20 works fell apart. Perhaps the then-young artist was grateful for the funds at the time, but those $1,000 Fordjour paintings now go for $250,000, and Blumenthal said he only received 13 of the 20. So, apparently, Fordjour owed him seven more—at 2020 rates.

But in July, Blumenthal’s attorney exited the case, claiming he hadn’t been paid. The status of the case is now unclear. But Blumenthal’s got even bigger problems: A former partner is accusing him of stealing artworks. Blumenthal, on the other hand, claims he was simply taking what was rightfully his.

Robert Blumenthal. Photo: Patrick McMullan.

Robert Blumenthal. Photo: Patrick McMullan.

In a video sent to Wet Paint, the dealer Ford Phillips—who founded East Projects with Blumenthal in late 2019, but no longer works with him—can be seen entering his apartment on March 1 for what he says is the first time since November. “Robert Blumenthal has been here trying to steal artwork,” Phillips says in the video. “All the lights are on—typical. The place is a fucking mess.”

In another image given to Wet Paint, police can be seen in the apartment filing a report.

Phillips’s lawyer confirmed that his client had contacted the Art Loss Register and “the appropriate authorities… to resolve the issue.” (“The unfortunate reality is my client did work on various projects with Robert Blumenthal,” the lawyer said. “However, Robert never had a formal interest in my client’s business.”)

The police investigating the alleged theft. Photo courtesy a tipster.

Sources said Phillips was missing work by artists including the hotly in-demand Ivy Haldeman—who makes pastel-washed surrealist scenes that often feature hot dogs come to life—and others who had been featured in the last solo show at East Projects, which was curated by the London-based advisor Bjorn Stern.

Another artist whose work is said to be at large is Godwin Champs Namuyimba, the Ugandan artist who has seen his market rise over the pandemic. Three works in the last six months have doubled their high estimates at auction, selling for mid-five figures and gaining momentum.

Blumenthal, for his part, says he merely claimed what belongs to him. “This is simply a shakedown by someone who is financially desperate and trying to take what isn’t his,” he told Wet Paint. “I took the work to protect my financial interest as Ford was threatening to sell the paintings and keep the money.” He shared an email that appears to confirm his purchase of a work by Haldeman, which he says is now in “the townhouse Ford and I shared together.”

Meanwhile, he is unhappy with the way his estranged business partners have handled the work of Champs Namuyimba, who Blumenthal says is being included in the next Venice Biennale. After the trio planned to buy 25 works by the artist jointly, Phillips and Stern began “putting [them] directly at auction which is not the way I would go about building an artist career,” he said. “I hope we can resolve this, but I am not going to just let people steal from me.”

A billboard by Sayre Gomez, presented by Robert Blumenthal Gallery in 2017. Photo courtesy Robert Blumenthal Gallery.

The East Projects website no longer lists Blumenthal as a partner, and his own gallery on the Bowery, simply called Blumenthal, has not had a show since 2018. Sources say, however, that there is an intriguing development in his personal life. After a divorce that landed him some unflattering coverage in Page Six, Blumenthal is newly engaged to Olivia Wheat, stepdaughter for former Credit Suisse chairman and CEO Allen Wheat.

Mazel tov to the happy couple! Let’s hope all this mishigas gets sorted out before the wedding.

 

FRIEZE THAWS FROZEN PLANS FOR NEW YORK FAIR

The Shed in Hudson Yards. (C. Taylor Crothers/Getty Images)

Here’s a fun parlor game to play with dealers while dining outside as temperatures creep up: What will the actual first art fair be in the After Times? Many have their money on Art Basel in Switzerland, now delayed to September, and lack of rooms at the Drei Könige indicates a certain amount of confidence that there will be, um, something on the Messeplatz come fall. But flights are not booked, and Wet Paint hears that one prominent gallery owner is telling staff that a trip to the Rhine come fall is not exactly likely. If the last year taught us anything, trying to predict stuff like this so many months out is pretty worthless. (An Art Basel rep says the fair is still scheduled for September.)

But perhaps the plan for springtime has finally become clear—at least stateside. Europe has been in and out of lockdown since last fall, but New York’s numbers have been looking pretty dang promising since the start of 2021, knock on wood. Which is why, despite rumblings of its demise, Frieze New York is indeed going ahead with plans for its scaled-back fair, travel restrictions and general logistical headaches be damned.

In a letter to exhibitors obtained by Wet Paint, the fair says it plans to hold its mini expo at The Shed, the art center at Hudson Yards, and claims it has the pledged support of “all relevant authorities, medical consultants, collectors, and our participating galleries.”

Frieze will not look like this in May. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Getting in won’t be a cakewalk. All exhibitors, staff, and attendees need a negative PCR test—that’s a PCR test, not a rapid test—before they can enter, which means full quarantine in the days while you wait for the results. That, or proof of vaccination. Once you jump that hurdle, you’ll enter a facility geeked-out with an extra fancy ventilation system, a large space that will be sparsely populated at all times due to the timed ticketing system. Naturally, masks are required. Daily health checks will monitor the temperature of staff, exhibitors, and attendees.

And just to be extra careful, Frieze has established a “medical advisory team” that will oversee “an app to manage daily declarations, appointments for testing, private records of test results and/or proof of vaccination, as well as details for contact tracing.” Sounds like a party!

Frieze declined to comment beyond the email.

 

POP QUIZ

Excellent work on last week’s quiz, dear readers. So many of you knew that the work was Black Monolith, for Okwui Enwezor (Charlottesville) (2017–20) by Julie Mehretu, which is currently on view at the New Museum in its fantastic show, “Grief and Grievance: Art & Mourning in America,” conceived of by Enwezor before his death. Thankfully, it’s up until June—fingers crossed that some vaccinated non-New Yorkers can swing through town in the next few months to see it.

But identifying the owners proved a little trickier. The Mehretu is owned by Henry Kravis, the billionaire founder of investment firm KKR & Co., and his wife, the philanthropist Marie-Josée Kravis. (The wall text at the New Museum doesn’t mention that Henry Kravis was a prominent Trump donor who was once in the running to be secretary of the Treasury, though in November, Kravis did urge Trump to accept the results of the election and begin the transition, so, I don’t know, all is forgiven? Is that how this works?)

Henry Kravis and his wife Marie-Josee Kravis arrive at the White House for a state dinner April 24, 2018. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

We had more than 10 correct responses, so here’s the first batch that landed in the inbox with a fully correct answer: Brussels-based curator Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte; collector and patron Scott Lorinsky; Dan Desmond, executive director of the Blue Rider Group at Morgan Stanley; Pace Gallery’s Danielle Forest; Cyprien David, exhibition coordinator at Gagosian, Geneva; Los Angeles dealer Harmony Murphy; Kelly Long, curatorial assistant at the Whitney; Darrow Contemporary founder Meredith Darrow; self-described “Wet Paint fan” Cullen McAndrews; and the art historian and critic Phyllis Tuchman.

A hearty congrats to all!

Here’s this week’s clue: Name the artwork and its owner!

Winners will get hats—the next batch is coming in very soon… so send your guesses to [email protected]!

 

WE HEAR…

A work by Issy Wood set to be auctioned on Fair Warning. Photo courtesy Instagram.

Loïc Gouzer’s Fair Warning will be offering a dazzling work by the master Issy Wood Sunday, and it’s expected to go for big, as Wood’s work is impossible to get—even if you are world-famous art podcaster Russell Tovey!—and has never before appeared at auction … Longtime Bowery stalwart The Hole is branching out to a second location, right in the heart of the new gallery mecca in Tribeca … Rapper Ja Rule is doing NFTs now—look, this gimmick is already entering its Fyre Festival era, do we still have to pretend to care? … Ramiken founder Mike Egan is taking off his art dealer hat and putting his artist hat back on with a solo show at Meredith Rosen Gallery inspired by that eternal muse, Lana Del Rey … I feel like we’ve written this a few times but now Indochine is actually reopening March 30 … Josh Kushner and Karlie Kloss have brought another grandchild of former jailbird Charlie Kushner into this world … Greek shipping heirs Theo Niarchos and Eugenie Niarchos have opened a new gallery in Los Angeles with a show or works by Max Ernst

A detail of Tony Matelli’s Caesar, set to be shown in Mexico in April. Photo courtesy Winter Street Gallery.

Winter Street Gallery, the Martha’s Vineyard space founded by dealers George Newall and Ingrid Lundgren, will be popping up in Mexico City—there’s a lot going on in Mexico City in April, people—with an outdoor sculpture show featuring Carl D’Alvia, Al Freeman, Tony Matelli, Kayode Ojo, presented alongside Galería Hilario Galguera, and the grand opening is April 27 … Beloved East Village art dive Sophie’s, a place very close to your scribe’s heart, reopens today, along with its sister bar Josie’s, and we will see all you vaccinated folks at the pool table, get ready to lose … There may not be art fairs quite yet, but all the collectors down in Palm Beach can attend the billionaire-stuffed island’s International Boat Show, which, according to a release, is very much happening at the end of March very much in person, as there ain’t no online viewing room that can replace the smack of sea breeze taken in deckside …

 

SPOTTED

Good morning New York let’s get those non-fungible tokens! Photo courtesy Instagram.

*** Sotheby’s CEO Charlie Stewart, who was last seen drinking a fancy bottle of red with Kevin Love, on his businessman tip—this week on the Instagram stories, Charlie made sure to post proof that he got to the office early *** A large swath of the downtown set descending upon the Bushwick-based Pegasus Prints for a group show arranged under the auspices of Lucien Smith’s non-profit Serving The People *** Anton Kern director Brigitte Mulholland celebrating artist Hein Koh’s carrot-themed paintings at the gallery’s Tribeca window with, um, carrot cake, what else *** King Of All Media Chris Black taking a break from pumping out episodes of How Long Gone (which he hosts with Jason Stewart) to shoot pre-grammy pictures of Phoebe Bridgers wearing custom Thom Browne in a Los Angeles backyard ***

Phoebe Bridgers in Thom Browne. Photo by Chris Black.

*** A number of artists and writers celebrating the one-year anniversary of Dr. Clark, which had the distinction of opening on exactly the day the city’s restaurants shut down ***  The new LA set at Gigi’s, a Hollywood spot that on-the-town west coast tipsters tell us has attracted a continuous flow of models, artists and musicians, and everybody’s smoking constantly, which is great *** Artists Lily Gavin and Barry Keoghan screening films at the Gucci Bookstore on Wooster Street in Soho *** Bella Hadid hanging out by the big KAWS thing outside the Seagram Building *** Speaking, if anyone could put Lil Baby in touch with Per Skarstedt—Lil Baby, ladies and gentlemen, would like to buy some KAWS ***

 

PARTING SHOT

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A Netflix True Crime Series Will Investigate the Brazen Robbery of $500 Million in Artworks From the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum


Netflix’s latest true crime documentary will revisit the infamous heist at Boston’s Isabella Stewert Gardner Museum, an unsolved robbery in which a pair of thieves posing as policemen tied up a night watchmen and made off with 13 masterpieces by the likes of Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, Edgar Degas, and Édouard Manet, collectively worth an estimated $500 million.

Next week marks the 31st anniversary of the break-in, carried out in the wee hours of the morning amid St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. There is still a $10 million reward for information leading to the paintings’ return, and it remains the most expensive art theft in US history.

Over the decades, the daring robbery has inspired a PBS documentary and numerous books, podcasts, and even works of art.

The new show, titled This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist, is a four-part series by brothers Nick and Colin Barnicle, Boston natives who shared a boyhood fascination with the crime. It comes out on April 7.

This is how police found Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum night watchman Rick Abath after the theft. Two thieves posing as policemen tied him in up in the museum basement. Photo courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

This is how police found Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum night watchman Rick Abath after the theft. Two thieves posing as policemen tied him in up in the museum basement. Photo courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

No one has ever been arrested or tried in connection with the case, leading to any number of theories about what really happened and where the paintings are. Both the Italian mafia and the Irish mob are suspected of being involved, and efforts to recover the works have spanned continents.

The FBI announced in 2013 that it had identified the two thieves who carried out the break-in, but never released their names. Some law enforcement sources have reportedly identified them as George Reissfelder and Lenny DiMuzio, both of whom died shortly after the robbery.

This Is a Robbery promises a tale of “equal parts drama, explosive true crime story, and a madcap comedy of errors,” producer Jane Rosenthal told Deadline.

A list of motion detector alarms triggered by thieves during the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist. Photo courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

A list of motion detector alarms triggered by thieves during the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist. Photo courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

The only living suspect linked to the crime, reputed New England mobster Robert Gentile, broke his silence last month, but insisted that allegations about his involvement were an “out and out lie.”

“Even if you’ve read all the books, if you’ve listened to anything on it, there’s going to be new things in there,” Colin Barnicle told the Boston Globe. “And we reach a conclusion.”

See the trailer for the docuseries below.

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