Whitehot Magazine

Cj Hendry Sells Out: The smash success of the launch of Dropshop, the new direct to market retail arm of Phillips

CJ and crowns, phptp courtesy of Phillips, New York, NY


By CLAUDIA August 21, 2023

When Cj Hendry and Phillips partnered for the launch of dropshop I knew it was going to be something special. Hendry is known for staging what she calls “real life concepts” instead of traditional art shows, and so I along with all her legions of fans were waiting to see what she had in store for her “Crown” series. For Australian born Hendry, the inflatable crown “is a tongue in cheek representation of the monarchy and how “pumped up” it appears to be… They are meant to represent the monarchy, but they are in fact mocking the very nature of the establishment through their mass production.” Based on the past, the bar was set high, but I don’t think any of us expected it to be as outstanding as it was. 

The centerpiece of the exhibition, photo by Claudia


 Crowns with path official pic image courtesy of Phillips


Crowds outside Phillips, New York, NY

Hendry has navigated the choppy seas of social media to build a substantial online following, largely due to the way she interacts with admirers of her work. The space at Phillips was sparkling with a kind of electric energy. Hugs and hellos were exchanged freely, by friends and strangers alike. Smiles and laughter abounded. The crowd was a mix of Upper East Side natives, art collectors, artists, and Gen Z Hypebeasts. Additionally, as, this past Saturday was a series of firsts. From firsts in art, to a first date that turned into potential wedding, perhaps be officiated by Hendry herself.

 Crown drawing w/crowd above

When I walked up to Phillips, I saw a line around the corner and snaking into the building’s courtyard garden on east 57th street. Inside I was told by staff that people had been waiting outside since 3am. Not surprising when you take into account Henry’s massive fanbase, or the fact that this was the first time in history people would be able to walk into a Park Avenue auction house, and potentially walk out with a piece of art. But this wasn’t about winning. This about the experience, and for fans of CJ Hendry, this was a pilgrimage of sorts more than anything else. Some flying in from overseas for it. Many had visited  several, if not all, of her past real life concepts.  


Visitors with crowns official pic 

Once inside I watched as groups entered and searched through the massive piles of crowns, with Hendry periodically getting on the mic to encourage the hunt. Crowns were being tossed in all directions as people dug deep into the mounds of inflatables that stretched out covering the entire showroom floor. Visitors diligently (and not so diligently) scanned each crown for the magical word “air” printed in the inside of each “golden ticket” crown. Some enjoying the fun of immersing themselves down into the crowns, while others were intensely focused on the task. I witnessed several people dive in head first, and others play with their young children. Everyone enjoyed themselves, and every single visitor walked away with more than one inflatable crown to keep.

In the end, winning seemed to come down more to luck, or fate, than anything else. I was able to witness three crowns being found while I was present. Watching each lucky visitor burst out of the sea of crowns shouting with excitement, I was just as taken with the excitement of the artist rushing to greet them with hugs and congratulations. Hendry truly enjoys and prioritizes the connection she has with her fans. And in return she (and her work), are treated with a reverence and feverish interest rarely seen in the art world, outside of a Tom Sachs sneaker drop. 

Nichole Warne. Photo by Claudia for Whitehot Magazine 


The first visitor I spoke to was Nicole Warne. “I’ve been friends with CJ for a long time and it’s amazing to see behind the scenes.” said Warne, “Her process is so meticulous and she thinks about every single detail. So to see it come to life, it’s incredible. I just get so proud because it’s not just a lesson in concept, but in community. She loves her community. She makes it fun, she makes it playful, and a really tactile experience. I think it’s great. People aren’t really doing what she does.”

While taking photos of visitors picking through the crowns, suddenly a woman leapt up shouting she’d won. Later I found out they were on their first date and caught up with them upstairs 

Couple at the event

Bf “This is our second time around, so perseverance it key. First we’re like “we’re gonna find it, we’re going to find it!” and the like five seconds into it you’re like “I can’t! It’s just too many! Everything’s red! What do I do?!”

Gf “And then he didn’t know that it was me screaming, so he was upset that someone else won one, and then he looks up and is like “wait a minute” 

Photo by Claudia

I spoke with artist and Phillips employee Ferguson Amo about his thoughts on the concept. “I’m a fan on Cj. I work here and I’m an artist so I love the engagement of people coming to experience art. In our space and with people searching for the treasure in this exhibition, they are part of the art.”

As one lucky winner Phoebe Wiener told me, “I was telling my friends that I came in with that I was going to come in with a mission, and so I just started using my eyes to scan it. I honestly don’t think I was searching, I was just looking for “air” and I saw one in a pile. It was a really cool experience. I think that making art accessible and interactive like this is really fun especially as we are in this day of social media and everything. Overall it was a really cool experience.” 

Speaking with Anna, with one of the many visitors who brought their young children, “I’m a fan of Cj Hendry.” said Anna who attended with her young daughter. “I’ve been to several of her exhibitions and it’s just amazing the job she does. The way she thinks. My daughter is growing up on her art. From going to her exhibitions we have so many small things left after like socks, or today a crown. So thank you, to Cj Hendry!”

Christine Miele of Phillips summed it all up to me well, “There are many ways to be a collector. Whether CJ fans win a crown from the bronze edition or they purchase on from Dropshop, these inflatable crowns are souvenirs from this experience. Curation is such a personal and nostalgic exercise and these inflatables might just end up on a mantelpiece next to a piece of fine art. With Dropshop, Phillips will feature a range of artists with distinct offerings, from up and coming to blue chip artists, as well as curated fine jewelry and watches, and even potential partnerships with designers and galleries. CJ’s drops are always inclusive and experiential. With this experience, if you didn’t get the bronze crown, you still got to go home with a piece of the concept that you can put on your shelf. Many of her followers drove or flew hundreds of miles to be here for this event and consider the inflatable crowns to be art in themselves.” 

Cathy Wexler, former global managing director of Christie’s, and current CMO of Phillips added, “That’s your eye and your curation. That’s what we want from Dropshop. We want accessibility. We want an art world with engagement, and to have as many people as possible to be able to take part.” WM 


 Claudia is an artist and writer born and raised in New York City. 

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