Ex-Sotheby’s Rainmakers Battle It Out With New Firms, Tastemaking Gallery Cuts a Chunk of Its Roster, & 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]



In 2016, Sotheby’s rolled the dice and spent $50 million—plus $35 million in performance-contingent bonuses—to acquire Art Agency, Partners, a boutique advisory firm. Initially, the move was a bit baffling considering the amount of money involved, but it soon became clear why the deal got done: Sotheby’s needed to have on its team the trio of founders, Amy Cappellazzo, Allan Schwartzman, and Adam Chinn.

In the years since, Sotheby’s went private and all three have bolted from the world-conquering auction house. Now, they’re planning to set out on their own—with upstart enterprises that are due to go head to head.

Almost immediately after joining Sotheby’s, the three started making serious cash for their corporate overlords. Cappellazzo, once the leading rainmaker at archrival Christie’s, was back to her swashbuckling ways, swooping in to secure prize consignments through sheer brute force and egging on billionaires to bid that extra million on the phone.

Schwartzman was the more cerebral of the three and centered his attention on waxing philosophical on the much-heralded In Other Words podcast and newsletter while advising deep-pocketed clients like Howard Rachofsky, Penny Pritzker, Nicolas Berggruen, and—just the tiniest bit controversially—the Saudi royal family. (He’s on the advisory board of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commission for Al Ula.)

Howard Rachofsky’s house in Dallas. Photo courtesy Rachofsky House.

The biggest surprise was Chinn. For a guy with a background as a lawyer and investment banker, his role at an art advisory firm was less obvious, and his role at an auction house, downright head-scratching. But he quickly became a fixture on the phone bank, barking into the receiver, goading on the ultra-rich to nab that pricey Picasso.

After a stint advising for the notorious Mugrabi family—the clan with hundreds of war halls and the balls to disrupt global markets through speculative buying—Chinn started an online auction business called LiveArt, and the buzziest takeaway is that it’s an online platform where both buyer and seller are completely anonymous to one another and can quickly transact without the messiness of personality getting in the way. What’s more, Chinn is only charging a 10 percent commission, with the hope that clients would come to him rather than his former employer, another gallery, or advisory firm.

A view outside Sotheby's in New York City. Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images.

A view outside Sotheby’s in New York City. Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images.

(Chinn also threw a splashy dinner Tuesday night at Bar Primi on the Bowery—also known as the place you begrudgingly head to when Gemma is full—with a slightly thirsty Paperless Post that included the entire bill of fare for the evening. Ricotta crostini with truffle honey, anyone?)

Competing for oxygen in the art-market atmosphere is Schwartzman and Associates, the still under-the-radar operation that hopes to become the go-to shop for the world’s most tasteful billionaires and their museums. Although he’s yet to launch publicly, Schwartzman has already built a crackerjack team of art-market sharpshooters including many former Art Agency Partners colleagues. There are also a few ringers mixed in, including Simon Preston, the onetime Lower East Side gallery owner who had a short stay at Pace before getting axed in a round of layoffs. Rounding out the team are vets from LVMH, Sotheby’s, and David Zwirner

As for Cappellazzo, sources say she’s planning her own deeply ambitious shop, a firm suited to a post-COVID world where good material is hard to come by but demand—and the capital to fuel it—is endless. After wrapping up her time at Sotheby’s in the next few weeks, she’s going to take the summer off and launch in mid-fall. 

Cappellazzo and Schwartzman declined to comment; Chinn did not respond to an email. 


David Nolan’s uptown space. Phoo courtesy David Nolan.

Word came down last week in hushed whispers: a large chunk of the roster of David Nolan Gallery had been taken off the site seemingly overnight. The timing was odd: Since moving from the northern part of West Chelsea a few years back to a stately townhouse on the Upper East Side, David Nolan, who has maintained a gallery presence in New York for decades, seems to be absolutely thriving. The show up right now—a survey of artists nurtured and championed by the great dealer Klaus Kertess—has been a real hit, drawing even the most staunch of downtown kids up to the nabe that Nolan now calls home.

Installation view of 13 Artists: A Tribute to Klaus Kertess’ Bykert Gallery 1966-75. Phoo courtesy David Nolan Gallery.

But one thing is clear: a number of longtime Nolan artists who were listed on the roster earlier this year are no longer there. According to a cached screengrab of the official list from March of this year—thanks again, Wayback Machine—the following artists were all on the roster at the time: Alice Maher, Ray Yoshida, Gavin Turk, Alexander RossSteve DiBenedetto, and Serban Savu. Now, they are all off (or have been demoted from “represented” to simply having “works available”), leaving the roster at 16 artists including Barry Le Va, who died earlier this year. 

What happened? Wet Paint reached out to them all; many did not respond. One of those who was reached said they hadn’t worked with the gallery in years, indicating the purge could have been a matter of summer housekeeping rather than a coordinated mutiny or a brutal culling. Nolan didn’t respond to a request for comment.



The Wet Paint hat at Lucien. Photo courtesy Nate Freeman.

One more bit of breaking news: After nearly 80 columns chock full of scandal and gossip, your faithful Wet Paint scribe will be leaving Midnight Publishing Group at the end of the month to become an art columnist and staff writer at Vanity Fair

Which means: Midnight Publishing Group needs a new gossipmonger to take over this illustrious column! Do you think it could be you? If so, see the full job posting here and submit an application. 

And, since you are wondering, yes, I will figure out what to do about all those hats. Stay tuned for an update in the next column, which will resume after a July 4th break.


In honor of the Cady Noland show at Galerie Buchholz, last week’s clue was her great work Oozewald, shown from behind. It was bought by Mitchell and Emily Rales for their private museum, Glenstone. Only three winners this time: Brussels-based curator Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte; Cyprien David, exhibition coordinator at Gagosian Geneva;  and Dan Desmond, executive director of the Blue Rider Group at Morgan Stanley.  

Here is this week’s clue. Name the artist and the owner!

Send guesses to [email protected] 


… Will Ferrell and his wife, Viveca Paulin-Ferrell, have loaned a handsome Huguette Caland to the Drawing Center‘s current show … Pace is letting Michael Xufu Huang, the founder of Beijing‘s X Museum, curate a show at its space in Palo Alto …  Charles Ray will be showing a new self-portrait at Glenstone, to be unveiled this December … Gagosian is doing Felix, the Los Angeles fair held at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, for the first time, and the booth features works by Duane Hanson, Ed Ruscha, and Taryn Simon that “provide an illuminating contrast between real life and Los Angeles’s more elusive fantasies of glamour and fame” … Speaking of Felix, the art-world podcast Nota Bene will be throwing a big party at some point that week, stay tuned … George Adams Gallery has opened its new space in Tribeca, with the storefront found by downtown’s top white-cube procurer, Jonathan Travis … 

George Adams Gallery in Tribeca. Photo courtesy George Adams Gallery.


Four editions of Good Hair I (2021) by Hugh Hayden, included in his new show at Lisson, “Huey.” Photo by Nate Freeman.

*** Hundreds of downtown artists, dealers, and collectors at the Bowery Grand Hotel party hosted by Lisson Gallery to mark the openings of shows by Hugh Hayden and Van Hanos, both extremely buzzy and must-see …  David Zwirner throwing the afterparty for the opening of “More Life,” a series of shows marking the 40th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, with a party at Julius, said to be the oldest continuously operated gay bar in New York *** Actress and noted hanger-on to art cliques Margaret Qualley at Supper in the East Village with fellow actor Lucas Hedges ***


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Goldsmiths Professors Are Refusing to Grade Students to Protest Impending Job Cuts at the Art School + Other Stories

Art Industry News is a daily digest of the most consequential developments coming out of the art world and art market. Here’s what you need to know on this Friday, January 29.


Antony Gormley Launches a National Window Show – Inspired by the first lockdown, when people across the UK celebrated the National Health Service by placing rainbows in their windows, the artist Antony Gormley has launched an idea for a nationwide window art show “The Great Big Art Exhibition.” Artists including Sonia Boyce (who will represent Britain at the next Venice Biennale) and Anish Kapoor, will choose a theme each week to inspire people at home. The first theme, selected by Gormley, will be “animals.” (Guardian)

South Africa’s Art World Decries Culture Minister – A group of South African artists are calling for the resignation of the country’s arts and culture minister, Nathi Mthethwa, after he posted a tweet saying that the country’s shuttered performing arts scene was “alive and well.” The hashtag #NathiMustGo is trending, along with a petition for his resignation that says the tweet “reflects our long experience of the minister as incompetent, aloof, and out of touch.” (South Africa Art Times)

Goldsmiths Professors Stop Grading Students Lecturers at the prestigious London art school are refusing to give students grades in protest of an impending restructuring that would lead to job cuts. Last year, management hired the consulting firm KPMG to help resolve its £8 million financial deficit, which led to the restructuring plan. “[T]he vision seems clear: transform Goldsmiths from a research-and-teaching high quality university, into a cut-price teaching-dominated college,” one lecturer told The Art Newspaper. (TAN)

Museum of the Bible Returns 5,000 Objects to Egypt – The embattled Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, has returned around 5,000 artifacts to Egypt, including funeral masks and heads of statues, following evidence that they had been exported illegally. The items will go on view in the Coptic Museum in Cairo. (The Art Newspaper)


FIAC Announces Exhibitor List – FIAC’s first online viewing room, which runs this March 2-7 will feature 210 exhibitors from 28 countries. Galleries include White Cube, Sadie Coles HQ, and David Zwirner, among others. (Press release)

A Closed Vienna Hotel Is Having an Art Fair – Some 13 Viennese galleries are showing artwork inside a closed hotel, including by the art collective Gelitin and Alfredo Jaar. For the virtually viewable art fair platform, called Interconti Vienna, each gallery presents an artist’s work inside a glass vitrine in the Intercontinental hotel’s opulent hallways. It is on view now until February 7. (Interconti Vienna)

What are NFTs and Why Does the Art World Care? – NFTs, an abbreviation for Non-Fungible Tokens, are becoming more frequently used, including by Christie’s, for authenticating art sales. In December 2020, $9 million worth of NFT-based art was sold. Registered on the blockchain, these digital tokens provide a record of purchases and ownership. (TAN)


A New Art Museum Will Open in Graz – The picturesque city of Graz, Austria, is getting a new contemporary art institution, the Halle für Kunst Steiermark, which opens on April 22. It will be headed by former Künstlerhaus director Sandro Droschl and Cathrin Mayer, who was a curator at KW Institute. (Press release)

The Next Part of the Netflix Hit Lupin Returns – The French actor Omar Sy will return to play the master thief Assane Diop in the five remaining episodes of the Netflix hit series Lupin. The streaming service is staying coy about the exact date of the episode drops.(Marie Claire)

MoMA Curator Heads to Aperture Sarah Meister, a longtime curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is leaving the post to lead the photography nonprofit Aperture. Meister will replace Chris Boot, who is moving back to England, at the organization. (Press release)


Check Out the Second Edition of Orange Crush The only print magazine in the world devoted to art and wrestling has dropped its second issue. This edition features an interview with Mike Watt of the Minutemen accompanied with images by artist Raymond Pettibon; profiles of under-the-radar wrestler Matthew Justice and artist Shaun Leonardo; and an in-depth look at the debate about inter-gender wrestling. (Orange Crush)

Midnight Publishing Group Joins the Museum of Graffiti on Instagram – Join the @Midnight Publishing Group Instagram account today for a live event with Alan Ket and Allison Freidin, co-founders of the Museum of Graffiti, in honor of the “Street Level” sale on Midnight Publishing Group Auctions. Tune in to find out about how public perceptions of graffiti have changed and the internet’s role in the evolution of street art. (Press release)

Kunstinstituut Melly Launches – After dropping its colonialist name, the former Witte de With, now called the Kunstinstituut Melly, has launched in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The renaming, a reference to Ken Lum’s work Melly Shum Hates Her Job, is debuting Melly TV, a talk show that will explore pressing subject matter about the city and art. (Midnight Publishing Group News)


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