On the third Thursday of May, I steeled myself outside the leafy entrance of New York City's Public Hotel, flooded with Santal 33-wearers, gallery girls, aging art bros, and amused members of the press. It was there, on the heavily perfumed corner of Chrystie Street, that Anna Delvey was holding her first solo art show — sort of.
With limited supplies provided by Founders Art Club, an advisory firm that now represents Delvey, the scammer extraordinaire created a series of 20 pen-on-paper drawings, which her attorneys skillfully smuggled out of jail.
Eyeing an eventual profit, the firm bought the entire series outright. Interested investors can purchase partial ownership of the collection, which Founders Art Club will show at prominent galleries and events to bolster its value. Eventually, the company hopes to auction the works through the likes of Christie's or Sotheby's.
Obviously, I had to see the drawings myself — by now, incessant media coverage of Delvey has transformed the German grifter into a character so absurd, it's difficult to remember she's real.
So I mounted the Public's mirrored escalator and made my way to Bar Chrystie on the second floor. Once inside, I was immediately confused: where's the art, I thought, scanning the empty walls. I wondered if what appeared to be a framed rectangle of silver foil was Delvey's making.
The crowd was a bizarre mash-up of people I vaguely recognized, plus some totally perplexed boomers. There were people who were trying too hard; people who weren't trying enough; Europeans; Gutes Guterman from The Drunken Canal. Everyone was sipping on Delvey-themed drinks.
Approximately one art-less hour into the event, a drag queen — ostensibly dressed like Delvey in glasses, a corseted blazer, and black turtleneck — performed a spoken word-meets-dance number inspired by the woman of the night. Random.
After allowing us fifteen minutes to recover, an emcee told us to get ready, because shit was about to go down. The DJ stopped the music, replacing thrumming bass with a trilling phone line. The automated intro to a prison collect call flooded the speakers, and Delvey's very obviously pre-recorded voice came on the line: "Anna Delvey here," she crooned in that unmistakable accent.
"I'm so very exited to unveil my first ever collection titled 'Allegedly.' This is a collection of sketches I created while in ICE Orange County detention. I wanted to capture some of the moments of the past years, both never-seen-before and iconic, using limited tools I had at my disposal.
"Some of the pieces are straightforward, others are more abstract... I studied fashion illustration in Paris and haven't really sketched until my trial. You've heard so many voices already, but this is the beginning of me telling my story, my narrative, from my perspective."
And so it began. Turns out, this wasn't just any old art show. Screw levels and decals — this was a fashion runway boots the house down art show, oklurt. Models in black sunglasses and sheer, gauzy ski masks paraded through the bar holding each Delvey-drawn sketch.
Among the swindler's works: a drawing of herself with "RETIRED INTERN" scrawled above her head in New York Post-esque font; a drawing of herself lounging in bed with room service; a drawing of herself floating on an "ICEberg."
The entire thing was utterly entertaining. Comedic, even. It was hardly an art show — it was the Anna show, more about celebrating her larger-than-life antics than any art career in the making.
After the runway-cum-art reveal, attendees were informed that the extravaganza would continue upstairs. After observing the models pose, framed drawings in hand, with some random old white men, I decided it was time to say goodnight.
I bid farewell to the girls doused in Le Labo. I bid farewell to the tote-bag-carrying writers. I bid farewell to the vibes. Suddenly, I was back in the real world.