I am a young up-and-coming painter, and have been looking towards exhibiting my work in galleries. My father turned in my direction during this Thanksgiving weekend to explain to me, "Catherine, there are perils of not having a trustworthy representative". In this treasured discussion he brought up the lucrative names of Andrew Crispo, Larry Salander, and Charles Saatchi. Each man bringing a different aspect to the trend of seedy gallery owner; Crispo brings the element of mafia, Salander hauls his massive debt, and Saatchi is a gambler. Thus begins my research of these seedy men and each man's mistakes in trampling the art scene.
Hans Gissinger, Larry Salander, 2008.
Starting with the mafia-esque Andrew Crispo, the ultimate tabloid honey, bad-boy, sadomasochist art dealer. The gallery was very sucessful and published a number of books, 92 to be exact. He owned a prominent gallery on 57th St. in New York City in the fast paced 80's. The Andrew Crispo Gallery was very successful, the establishment published a number of books (92 to be exact) and graced the world with the works of many artists. In 1985, Crispo was (supposedly) involved with the Death Mask Murder case, a disgusting ordeal in which Mr. Crispo ordered his assistant to shoot Eigil Dag Vesti and to burn the body in Crispo's Hamptons home. He also threatened to kidnap his lawyer's child, which got Crispo into a legal pickle. His heinous acts were not towards the artist or the art work, but how could an artist trust such a sinister character? I would revoke my art from his holdings!!
The next play boy of the art world that my wise father warned me about is the Iraqi-Jew, Charles Saatchi. The seemingly arrogant-daydreamer connoisseur of selling young artist's work to the London and international market, quickly stocks, stashes (or sits in warehouses) and sells the work. My father was telling me of Saatchi's creation of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons' fame through his early discovery and funding of the two artists. He also has a TV show on the BBC2 by the title School of Saatchi, in which his team (he never appears in the show) finds the next up-coming artist to join in his gallery through a series of timed art creating sessions. The beef with Saatchi lays with the artist Sandro Chai, who he quickly sold all his available works to the public, the horrific flooding. Then Saatchi threatened Hirst with dumping a large quantity of his work on the market, in order for Hirst and his current gallery to buy back the art at over inflated prices. Artists seem to be terrified of confronting the powers of Saatchi and his say of what is good in the art world. If a gallery owner performed such a maneuver on me, I would cry to my father and he would surely take care of the matter...
My personal favorite naughty dealer is Larry Salander and his The Producers type scheme. His most popular victim was Robert De Niro, Mr. De Niro had trusted his father's estate to the Salander-O'Reilly gallery. The two had developed a friendship (according to De Niro) and supposedly Salander arranged shows for De Niro's collection internationally. Salander scamed De Niro and lototed the sales (a stroke of genius), resulting in a publicized court case and jail time for Salander. Additionally the gallery director stole $77,000 alone from the De Niro commission. His gallery declared bankruptcy in 2007, and in 2009 Salander pleaded guilty to $120 million in fraud. His great cheeky trick was selling and collecting payments on paintings without distributing monies to the artists or owners. He told his staff not to alert his clients of any sales that took place, displacing pieces of art and greedily collecting money. Finally this scheme synthesized many, many traumatized artists and owners who potentially lost both the piece of art work and the sum of money owed to them. The difference between Salander's case from those of Saatchi and Crispo is that the artist and patrons have a willingness to prosecute against the wrong doers of the art world.
I feel wiser after dissecting this terrible trend in the business side of art dealing. I have good faith that my potential representative will be a ethical, or i'll refuse to call her my dearest adoptive aunt.
- Catherine E. Rigdon