I mean, who isn’t, dearest Filthy Dreams readers? Who doesn’t love a little scandal now and again to spice things up and keep it fresh? Now, most drama contained within the vague boundaries of what is called the “art world,” whatever that is, is typically very boring, despite the utter glee the art world denizens like to whisper about it at gallery dinners and gala benefits. Who isn’t wearing their $800 Dior sneakers? What artist moved to a bluer chip gallery? YAWN! Count me out.
But sometimes, the drama is just so audaciously tacky (even rich folks can be classless) that it attracts even my undivided attention. Enter famed gallerist Mary Boone whose lawyers this week submitted maybe the most envy-worthy scam memo to a judge in the Southern District of New York in order to plea for leniency in her sentencing for false tax returns set for January 18. We’ll get to the exact contents of this hefty and bold memo in a bit, but I poured over each and every fraudulent detail.
I’ve said before that my favorite art is con art and well, Mary has just become my favorite artist in this discipline. Opening her gallery in the late 1970s, Boone is probably the best known and most frequently depicted gallerist in the New York art scene, a cultural touchstone that even non-art folks know as she was played by Parker Posey in Basquiat. Though I’m rarely interested in the shows at her gallery, which are usually just very big things by very famous artists, ranging from snoozefests to Laurie Simmons’s terrible show full of nightmarish ventriloquist dummies like a Howdy Doody fever dream, Boone, after reading this tabloid-esque trash, is now a role model. In fact, she perfectly mirrors the qualities that attracted us all to Twitter queen, meme icon and GIF generator Joanne Prada, better known as Joanne the Scammer, a character developed by Branden Miller. And while Joanne lives on the Internet, Mary has become (or perhaps always has been) a IRL version of this fur coat-wearing, wig-bearing scam artist. Truly…honestly…
Boone’s saga has been reported with hilarious seriousness by the art press, revealing just how divorced from reality each tier of the art world hierarchy really is. Did y’all read the same material I did? To me, the only way to correctly dive into this pool of greed and materialism is to narrate the entire tale with some GIFs from Joanne.
I know, I know, you’re chomping at the bit to hear the story. So to get into this law and order dirt, we have to rewind to 2018. Remember that year? So far, yet so close. Last September, Boone pled guilty to two counts of filing false tax returns for 2011, which means she could face up to six years in swanky Martha Stewart rich folk prison. THE HORROR!
Her crime? Just wanting a nice apartment! And her undeniable skill at manipulating financial information to do it. According to court documents, Boone falsely claimed $1.6 million personal expenses as tax-deductible business expenses in 2011, using some of this money to make $800,000 of renovations to her Manhattan apartment, while renting a new apartment when this was being done. Well, what was she supposed to do?! She needed new sconces! And Mary is quite the sneak, hiding, as The Art Newspaper reports, ‘a $500,000 payment to her remodelling contractor listed as an artist “commission.”’ Luxury is art, darlings!
She also claimed the gallery had a business loss when it really made a profit of $3.7 million and apparently made similar shady calculations in 2009 and 2010.
This is all amusing on its own, but, the memo filed this week by Boone’s lawyers Robert S. Fink and Michael Sardar to Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein brought it to an entirely new level of grift. Let’s pause for a moment to remember this is in the Southern District of New York–the same that dealt with slimy lawyer Michael Cohen. Maybe they can be cellmates!
Now, in the memo, the lawyers insist that Boone is, according to Artnet News, a “self-made woman who has had to work harder, act tougher, and do everything better in order to succeed in the male-dominated art world.” And while this is undoubtedly true, some of us do so without doing crimes. The boring ones anyway! This quote is also eerily similar to a description of Joanne the Scammer in The Fader, which describes her as “a fiercely independent hot mess who goes through obscene, hilarious lengths to look out for herself.” Can you spot the difference? I can’t.
Throwing every possible excuse at the wall to see what would stick, Boone’s lawyers claim that Mary didn’t hide money to renovate her apartment because of a sociopathic desire to live a life of opulence like a bad episode of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. No! It’s because of her childhood trauma. Same, honey! Granted, I’m not going to deny that Boone struggles with mental illness, trauma and substance abuse. I just think that it’s so amazing she voiced her struggles in such a timely manner!
Apparently, the death of her father when Boone was just three left Mary, her mother and siblings with limited resources. In the wake of this trauma, Boone remains fearful of financial ruin and, as the memo reads, “abject poverty.” Ew! Living like the rest of us. I bet I really freaked her out acting all poor next to her in the valet car at the Brant Foundation’s garish reception a couple years ago.
But that’s not all. The memo to the judge also included more than a hundred letters from art world butt-kissers, I mean luminaries, testifying to Boone’s character. These include, as Artnet News states: “prominent art world figures such as Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz; art collectors Beth Rudin DeWoody and Peter Brant; Performa director RoseLee Goldberg; curator Neville Wakefield; dealers Barbara Gladstone, Lucy Mitchell-Innes, Jack Shainman, and Jeffrey Deitch; and artists Ai Weiwei, Laurie Simmons, Ross Bleckner, and Julian Schnabel.”
Let’s break down some of these shall we? Of course, Boone’s artists have a stake in her staying out of prison, but I’m more interested in two names on this list. The first is Peter Brant, childhood classmate of one Donald Trump, who in a true Trumpian manner recently filed for bankruptcy with Interview Magazine only to re-buy it, thus avoiding paying any of his former editors, writers or freelancers. What a character reference! Also Mr. Pulitzer Prize Jerry Saltz is a curious inclusion, who prizes himself on his objectivity. But this seems to tell another story by getting involved in legal disputes for a gallerist. I’m watching your reviews, Jerry!
What did all these folks say though? Artnet News’ Sarah Cascone writes that they “spoke of Boone’s groundbreaking work promoting emerging artists—particularly women—and of her trustworthiness. Boone was also praised by gallery employees past and present, as well as a number of her fellow members of Alcoholics Anonymous, who touted her 20 years of sobriety and her support helping others battle addiction.”
Hold up…trustworthiness? Didn’t Mary recently settle a case with Alec Baldwin for seven figures? She promised Baldwin a Ross Bleckner painting Sea and Mirror even though it sold at Sotheby’s but then, gave him another painting just like it with the same title, hoping he’d never notice. And this was years after her sneaky tax fiddling.
However, Boone didn’t stop with just art world folks. She also has character references from…her housekeeper, her doorman and her driver, which strikes me as exactly something that Lucille Bluth would do. Yeah, I’m sure this was totally their idea.
So let’s all raise a glass to Mary. Here’s to you, honey, and thanks for the inspiration!