In a narrow hallway filled with lockers and plumes of marijuana and cigarette smoke, at A2Z Delancey, a small pop-up art gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, some 150 unmasked art lovers attended an opening Thursday last evening for Anna Sorokin’s first group gallery exhibition.
Sipping beers, viewers sat on sofas, while some came out to spray graffiti on a courtyard wall behind the space. A rock band played for about half an hour, with musicians and guests shaking their heads furiously, hair flying and convulsing in tandem.
For fans of the Netflix series ‘Inventing Anna’, which depicted the fake German heiress’ meteoric rise in Manhattan society – she scammed banks, stole a private jet and skipped hotel bills in a scheme to turn the Anna Delvey Foundation, a member-only arts club on Park Avenue South, into a reality — the opening couldn’t have been less, well, Anna.
Of course, that’s not how Ms Sorokin (her real name) saw the scene: “I liked how gritty it was,” Ms Sorokin, 31, said from her cell at the Correctional Facility in Orange County in Goshen, NY, where she is now being held by immigration authorities after serving her four-year sentence for her 2019 eight-count conviction for financial crimes.
“This super glamorous portrayal of me on the Netflix series isn’t that accurate,” she said.
The show, titled “Free Anna Delvey,” which ends March 27, references her preferred name and current detention for overstaying her visa. It includes works by 33 other artists inspired by Ms. Sorokin’s experience and focuses on five 22-inch by 30-inch pencil and acrylic drawings by Anna Delvey, priced at $10,000. (Fifteen percent of the sale price of any of the designs will go to a children’s charity.)
But none of Anna Delvey’s works were drawn by Ms. Sorokin. These pieces, displayed towards the back of the room, have been reproduced by Alfredo Martinez from drawings she made while incarcerated and that friends posted to her Instagram account. (Mr. Martinez served time in prison in the early 2000s for mail and telegraph fraud linked to his fake drawings of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the graffiti artist.)
Ms Sorokin said she had planned to do the larger-scale drawings herself, but the detention center limited the size of paper she could get inside the facility, so Mr Martinez offered his expertise. “In the art world it’s very common to have an assistant,” he said.
Julia Morrison, an artist who created NFTs from messages she said actor Armie Hammer sent her, said she came across Ms. Sorokin’s sketches while browsing Instagram. Ms Morrison, the show’s co-curator with Mr Martinez, said she identified closely with Ms Sorokin’s story because her own mother served time in an immigration detention centre.
Ms Morrison, who introduced Mr Martinez to Ms Sorokin’s work, said most people had oversimplified her backstory: “No one is just a villain or just a hero.”
Mr. Martinez initially did not know how to get in touch with Ms. Sorokin, who was then enjoying a media tour during her six weeks of freedom between the end of her criminal sentence and her arrest by ICE officials. So, he said, he started an article on page six of the New York Post, which appeared with the headline: “Anna Sorokin’s work could have its own exhibition” and waited for her to call. And she did.
The fake heiress who scammed New York’s rich
Anna Sorokin was convicted of theft of services and grand larceny in 2019. She now faces deportation to Germany for overstaying her visa.
But his detention at ICE days after their call interrupted the planning process, they both said, adding that they reconnected via the correctional facility’s text messaging app and resumed planning. earlier this year.
On opening night, Ms. Sorokin called Mr. Martinez to check in. He put the call on speakerphone and held it loud as people climbed up for the chance to say hello and congratulate her on the show.
“Free Anna Delvey!” people chanted before the call ended.
Among those present was Todd Spodek, his attorney, who did not walk away with any of the drawings.
“I already have a few select pieces from a woman’s private art show that took place at 111 Center Street,” he joked, referring to the location of her trial where she often sketched. . But, he says, he was glad to see people’s interest in his work.
“Anna Delvey affects women today the same way ‘Fight Club’ affected men in the 90s,” Mr Martinez said of Ms Sorokin’s appeal. “All the women who were on the show said yes before I finished my sentence.”
More than half of performing artists are women. Rina Oh’s pastel on paper titled ‘Her Royal Highness Princess Annoushka (Anna Delvey) Louise of Savoy’ mimics a portrait of Marie Antoinette, making Ms Sorokin a member of the Russian monarchy.
“I don’t care about the royal family,” Ms Oh said. “Because she took advantage of those kinds of people and they usually take advantage of us.”
For the show, Ms. Morrison took a hammer to a chest of drawers filled with shredded papers inspired by former President Donald J. Trump. (She is now hitting multiple NFTs of footage captured during the crash.)
Mr Martinez said he hoped the exhibit would show immigration authorities that Ms Sorokin would have more to offer if she could get out of behind bars.
Chris Martine, an art dealer who represented Ms Sorokin for several months, said he is now planning a second exhibition — his first solo exhibition – opening with 20 drawings in “an upscale Manhattan location,” as early as April, with hopes of later taking it to Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris, among other major cities. He expected Ms Sorokin to complete “the final pieces” by next week.
But producing a show in detention is complicated. Ms Sorokin confirmed she was given 9″ x 12″ watercolor paper and 12 non-toxic colored pencils, but her watercolor set – mistaken for makeup – did not pass through the metal detector. She’s not allowed to use the pencil sharpener, so get a corrections officer to sharpen her pencils. She also works without erasers: “So I can’t afford to make mistakes,” Ms Sorokin wrote.
Mr. Martine said he sent her photos she had requested for inspiration, including: Balthazar Restaurant and Sant Ambroeus in SoHo; The Mamouniathe luxurious hotel in Marrakech where she once stayed; Malibu Crossings, the drug treatment center just outside which law enforcement arrested her in 2017; and the steps of the New York City Courthouse.
In order to help coordinate the show, and because the battery of her facility-issued tablet quickly dies, Ms. Sorokin had to barter with a team of inmate volunteers, who traded access to their devices for snacks from vending machines that she buys through her commissioner. Account. “I contribute to the local economy,” Ms. Sorokin said.
But Mr Martine said the hassle was worth it: “We want the world to get a glimpse of Anna’s rightful entry into the world of fine art.”
He added: “But beyond that, art is only partly a matter of talent and determination and more so of the artist’s ability to command attention through his personality and his story. And that’s where she really shines.
From her detention cell, Ms Sorokin reflected on how far her artistic career had come, based on the failed attempt to set up her foundation and the series of events that had kept her behind bars for much of the past four years. and a half.
“It’s ironic,” she said. “How after failing so publicly trying to build ADF a few years ago, people are much more interested in hearing my voice now than they were in 2017.”