By NOAH BECKER March, 2022
Disclaimer: The following is a mini-diary of my participation with Alfredo Martinez and Anna Delvey. It’s challenging to write about friends and shows you are part of – but people are asking me to tell some stories about the past few weeks so here goes…
My friend, the well-known and perhaps at this point “notorious” artist Alfredo Martinez calls me on Facebook messenger from time to time to tell me about new art, ideas, or just to gossip. He has also occasionally popped into the art gossip room I've been running with Miami based collage art/mail art artist John Barrymore every Friday at 1pm PST on Clubhouse (drop by!).
But Martinez's recent fascination has been with Anna Delvey. And at this point, I'm guessing my readers know who Anna Delvey is - unless you've been living under a fucking rock? Pardon my French…If you don't know, she's everywhere and Google is your friend... But I am assuming my readers here are plugged into news and art happenings.
More about Anna Delvey in a second - but in the press, Alfredo Martinez is almost always referred to as the "Basquiat Forger” or scammer. Martinez comes by his reputation honestly, (or dishonestly if you will...) Alfredo's past is where his reputation was built and is interesting to me (and international members of the press) in terms of his Basquiat forgery case and subsequent prison term for Basquiat related art forgery crimes.
Personally, I am more interested in his graphically striking and highly original gun drawings and gun paintings than his Basquiat fakes or scammer narrative. His Basquiat fakes are also pretty cool though - and I plan on collecting one soon. It just seems that he’s a different artist than most of the artists I’ve encountered over the years. And this uniqueness is why his works are being collected right now.
I originally met Martinez through the late painter Joe Heaps Nelson, who wrote an extensive article about Martinez's forgery scandal and prison time in the US and China for Whitehot Magazine. I met Martinez shortly after I published that piece and we became friends. It’s difficult to write about friends because you could easily insult them publicly and lose a friend. That’s happened to me many times but also through the magic of press, you can make enemies “frienemies” and friends enemies. But enough of my neurosis, let’s get to the Anna Delvey aspect of this…
Martinez's story, like Anna Delvey's story, is being made into a Netflix series/movie. I suggested (as a joke) that it be called “Inventing Alfredo” – but it is currently an untitled project. In any case, I was puzzled by the whole Anna Delvey thing - and it was certainly not on my art world radar for any kind of attention in Whitehot Magazine. Martinez kept bringing it up in conversation and I didn’t understand why. Eventually he leveraged some press contacts to get an article about his desire to curate Delvey’s art in Page Six. This article got Delvey’s attention and Martinez quipped, “It’s amazing what you gotta go through to get a girl’s attention these days…”
Alfredo Martinez and I are no strangers to celebrity art happenings. We worked with Adrien Brody in his art studio, Ben Stiller and others. Like Warhol I gravitiate towards the best artists even if they are world famous for other roles...
I had not watched "Inventing Anna" and wasn't seeing the way forward in the art scene for this story. But then Martinez sent me a picture of a drawing made by Anna Delvey in prison. The drawing was somewhat like art you would see an adolescent girl draw in her bedroom but it had a kind of humor and brooding introspectiveness seen in other great contemporary art. The work of contemporary artist Karen Kilimnik comes to mind, also Elizabeth Peyton, Hillary Harkness and Raymond Pettibon in terms of artists working in a similar way to Anna Delvey - or at least artists I could imagine being in a group show with Anna Delvey.
Alfredo Martinez and co-curator Julia Morrison (who suggested that Martinez work with Anna Delvey at first), did in fact curate a group show of very strong art (including my paintings), with Anna as the focus in the show that opened last week in NYC. As expected (or kind of expected), the show (titled Free Anna Delvey), was featured in every news outlet, including the New York Times, Times of London, PAPER Magazine, The Daily Beast, Insider, The Art Newspaper and more. The group exhibition was a packed opening, Anna Delvey called and spoke to everyone on speakerphone, her greeting was cheers of FREE ANNA DELVEY from the crowd. A huge hit show and a hint at things to come…
On another note, aside from being a painter, I’m the host of the Whitehot Magazine art world podcast. The podcast with Anna Delvey came together through Martinez and Anna Delvey phoning me from prison. I can’t lie, it was really strange getting a call from Delvey in her ICE jail cell. The podcast went totally viral and now has nearly 10,000 plays of the one episode. I'm still in touch with Delvey and consider her a good friend.
In addition to Anna Delvey being kinder and less pretentious than the character she is portrayed as on the Netflix show, she has a kind of Warhol-like witty way of speaking and answering questions. I hope ICE does not deport Anna Delvey and allow her to live a crime-free life in the United States. Making art will be part of her new life - a legal path.
I see Delvey as kind of a cross between Nico from the Velvet Underground and a few other femme fatales in history - of course she’s her own thing as well, a kind of role model for women. This partly explains my interest in her art. WM
* The next step in the saga is Alfredo Martinez and art dealer Chris Martine curating Anna Delvey's New York solo show.
Artists included in the Free Anna Delvey show, curated by Alfredo Martinez and Julia Morrison include:
NORA IRIS MITCHELL
PAZ DE LA HUERTA
ANTHONY HADEN GUEST
Noah Becker is an artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine. He shows his paintings internationally at museums and galleries. Becker also plays jazz saxophone. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010). Becker's new album of original music "Mode For Noah" was released in 2023.
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