American Collectors Skip Art Basel (to Save Themselves for Paris), Libbie Mugrabi Dons a Bulletproof Vest for a Court Appearance, and More Juicy Art World Gossip

American Collectors Skip Art Basel (to Save Themselves for Paris), Libbie Mugrabi Dons a Bulletproof Vest for a Court Appearance, and More Juicy Art World Gossip


Every week, Midnight Publishing Group News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops. If you have a tip, email Annie Armstrong at [email protected].

ITS LONELY AT THE TOP

In the weeks following Art Basel, a recurring question has been circulating amidst the serene pause in market events and art openings: Why did so many American collectors decide to skip the marquee Swiss fair this year? This question is whispered with a tinge of anxiety, and a dose of conspiracy. Maybe it means there really is a significant decline in art collecting within the United States? Or is it just because Paris Plus, Basel’s shiny younger sister fair, has enticed international collectors to choose only one European fair to attend annually?

After speaking with a handful of prominent American art advisors and collectors with real skin in the game, the consensus is that the answer is quite simple: who wouldn’t pick Paris? The saturation of art fairs has created an abundance of choices in art consumption, and while Basel in Switzerland remains irrefutably at the top of the pecking order, some collectors no longer see it as the offer they can’t refuse. 

“I go to Basel Switzerland only if it’s also a launching pad for a [European] summer vacation,” revealed Los Angeles-based collector Josh Abraham, who skipped Basel this year, in an interview with Wet Paint. “But, as of late, I have moved my energy over to London/Paris as it packs a bigger punch combined, at least for me. It works for me better timing-wise, but then Miami Basel then becomes questionable.” 

Prominent New York advisor Allan Schwartzman guessed that most of his American collectors who opted out of Switzerland this year did so for the same reasons. “After COVID, it was made obvious that the world wouldn’t stop if they missed a few fairs,” he said. “Of the ones who usually go, two of them had personal matters to attend to.” As for the City of Lights? “I heard people say they could imagine Paris Plus eclipses Basel,” he said. “It’s a location people want to go to for other reasons. There’s more hotel options, better restaurants.” He added, though, “I know plenty of people who crave the wurst and the Kronenhalle.” 

Not Scott Lorinsky. “I attend Basel in Switzerland somewhat infrequently since June is often challenging schedule-wise, plus the city of Basel rarely enchants,” said the New York-based collector, who sat out the fair this year. “October in Paris is much more bewitching, and I plan on attending this year. I’m slightly embarrassed to say this is where my American perspective—‘Here we are now, entertain us’—kicks in a bit.” (Kurt Cobain definitely wrote ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ for the art-collecting class, I can confirm). 

Beyond the allure of a more glamorous European capital, there is also, of course, that broader trend of a slowdown in art collecting.

I felt this year in particular the uncertainty of the market in general—the stock market, interest rates, and the art market in general—made Americans take it easier on deciding to go to Basel,” said New York City-based collector Ronald Harrar, who did end up traveling to Basel this year to buy. “I wouldn’t say collectors are choosing one over the other, but certainly Paris as a city has much more to offer than Basel. I’m going to Paris Plus over Frieze… but not over Basel.” 

THE MUGRABI DIVORCE SAGA CONTINUES

Libbie and David Mugrabi ©Patrick McMullan.

Photo: Will Ragozzino/PatrickMcMullam

Can you believe its been five years since David and Libbie Mugrabi officially called it quits and spurred one of the more tumultuous, dramatic, and, admittedly, entertaining divorce proceedings of our time? The duo announced their multimillion-dollar divorce the year before Harry Macklowe rented a billboard to “proclaim his love” for his new wife Patricia Landeua right outside of his ex-wife Linda Macklowe’s apartment, making me think that we’re perhaps in the golden age of Divorce as Street Theater. 

The latest update in the ongoing saga—which has thus far included nannies that were really spies, countless re-filings over shared assets (including the couple’s estimated $5 billion art collection), damaged Basquiats and Warhols, and more than a few delicious pull quotesis that Libbie recently showed up to Manhattan family court wearing a bulletproof vest, according to Page Six. Libbie wore the vest as she filed for an order of protection from her ex, alleging that David once hired a Russian hitman to kill her, and telling the judge, “My husband is a former New York State wrestler. I’ve been told that his hands are weapons.” (The only trace of any wrestling history I could find was a bracket from Mugrabi’s Manhattan prep school). 

Speaking to Wet Paint over the phone from Saint-Tropez, David denied that he’s ever threatened Libbie’s safety, calling the court appearance “a complete publicity stunt for her fashion brand.” (If you’ll recall, Libbie runs an accessory line called Libbie Love that sells “Divorcée Glam” trucker hats for $125 a pop, and recently went through a legal entanglement with a canned pineapple company.) 

According to David, he showed up at court to refute Libbie’s claims after he returned from Art Basel, but Libbie didn’t make the court date and thus the charges were dropped. “It’s sad because some people do need these court services, but she’s just using them for publicity,” he continued. “There’s people who are really suffering and she’s taking their resources. It was purely marketing.” (A request for comment from Libbie’s side when unanswered at press time.)

All said, I truly wish peace, safety, and grace for the estranged couple, who both seem deeply bruised by this prolonged legal battle. But… have you ever seen a more epic hero image on a Page Six story? Wet Paint isn’t about to license the image, but, please, go click that link again. The image of Libbie arriving at Manhattan family court in a sleek white dress, pitch-black shades, and a military-grade bulletproof vest set against the orange sky during the city’s Canadian wildfire runoff? It just feels too au courant. Wealth excess, legal embattlement, and climate disaster mingle amazingly here. Someone get Sam McKinniss on the horn. This is art, people.

WE HEAR 

The Bored Ape Yacht Club market is fully in its flop era (should someone check on Paris Hilton and Snoop Dogg just to, uh, see how they’re doing?)… Tim Van Laere Gallery will open a second space in RomeThe Jeff Koons sculpture inside the building at 51 Astor is covered in plastic not because its being removed, just because its getting a summer cleaning… Vito Schnabel is looking for a new gallery assistant, and is paying between $45,000 to $55,000 for the gig (at least there’s PTO)… Mary-Kate Olsen’s ex, the French banking magnate Olivier Sarkozy, cuddling up on the streets of London with advisor Lara Björk… 

 

SPOTTED 

Did you spot that giant Rashid Johnson painting in the background of the photos of the White Party at Michael Rubin’s house? *** Michael Avedon, Tripoli Patterson, and Yung Jake at the opening night of the new watering hole Goldbar in South Hampton (what a name for a spot out East, huh?) *** Lorraine O’Grady, Derrick Adams, and Toyin Ojih Odutola partying it up at the Broken Shaker to fête Jack Shainman and Nicola Vassel’s new group show “We Buy Gold: Seven” *** Diane Kruger, Mike Bloomberg, Venus Williams, Georgia May Jagger, Alex Israel, and Maja Hoffmann at the Serpentine’s annual summer bash *** Raúl de Nieves performing for the crowd at Tom of Finland’s party with Diesel for the end of Pride Month, where Julia Fox, Aurel Schmidt, and Eartheater danced the night away *** 

 

CASTING CALL  

Fairgoers take pictures of Maurizio Cattelan's Comedian, for sale from Perrotin at Art Basel Miami Beach. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Fairgoers take pictures of Maurizio Cattelan’s Comedian, for sale from Perrotin at Art Basel Miami Beach. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Hello again! It’s been a few weeks since I came up with a film-ready art world scandal for you to cast. Let’s get back into it, shall we? Whoever emails me the best Hollywood lineup for the following movie idea will be personally sent a pink Wet Paint hat from yours truly. 

Given how bananas the world went over Maurizio Cattelan’s Comedian from Art Basel Miami Beach in 2019, and how many people have eaten the piece, I have to believe this could make a pretty compelling film. So… picture a Ruben Östlund-style parody about an uninspired art student who encounters the piece and attains global fame for eating it in a stunt that outshines the statement intended by the original work of art (I’m taking some creative liberties here). Cast for me (1) the unassuming art student, (2) Maurizio Cattelan, and (3) an enraged Emmanuel Perrotin. Email your answers to [email protected]

 

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