From poetry readings at the Playboy Club to exclusive sex parties for the elite, I’ve had the privilege of attending some truly strange events in my day. Anna Delvey’s debut art exhibit, held last night at New York’s Public Hotel while the Grifter Queen we have no choice but to stan remains in federal custody fighting deportation, may very well be the weirdest yet.
Not being very much acquainted with the New York City art scene (or any art scene anywhere, to be honest), I can’t say I really had any idea what to expect from an Anna Delvey art show, though admittedly I think I was picturing those art galas the Sex and the City women always seemed to be going to: big white-walled rooms with soaring ceilings and waiters carrying around trays of champagne and shrimp puffs or whatever. This was not that (though there were waiters with champagne — rather disappointing lack of shrimp puffs, though). What it was is something my guest (fellow InsideHook staffer Logan Mahan) and I spent most of the evening trying to figure out.
After we were herded with a large crowd of other guests into an intimate lounge off the hotel’s lobby bar, our first question was: Where is the art? We strolled around pointing at chandeliers and wall decor like, “Is this art?” (A lot of it was art, just not Anna Delvey’s art.) The second question was: “Or is it all just a scam?” (This was less a question than a hopeful manifestation; It’s always been a dream of mine to be scammed by Anna Delvey.) Despite knowing she’s still in ICE custody, we kind of half-expected Anna to appear at any moment (an imagined phenomenon Logan dubbed an “Anna Delvey jump-scare”) and scam us all right before our eyes.
Scam or not, the space filled up quickly with a mostly young, fashionable-looking crowd that photographers seemed eager to capture, flooding the space with bright lights as Instagram-ready guests sipped champagne. Who were these people? Were they famous? (Possibly.) Was I famous? (No, but for a moment I almost got the feeling that I, like Anna, had invaded the New York elite.)
At one point, someone claiming to be Anna did make an appearance: a drag queen (Yuhua Hamasaki, according to Variety) who performed elaborate Anna Delvey drag complete with Delvey’s signature thick-rimmed glasses. “I’m a masterpiece! I’m a masterpiece! Look at me, I am Anna,” she shouted as we all scrambled to catch a piece of the action for our Instagram stories. Confusing? Yes. Strangely delightful? Also yes.
Shortly after the random if very much welcome display of drag, it was finally time for this artless art show to get some art — and in no typical fashion. The music dropped as Anna’s (pre-recorded) voice filled the room. “Anna Delvey here,” she announced in her famously unplaceable 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 the 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.”
One by one, models dressed in all black with designer sunglasses and gauzy black ski masks that kind of looked like they were wearing nylons over their faces strutted into the room, each carrying one of Anna’s framed sketches. The collection included drawings of front-page stories from faux publications called “The Delvey Crimes” and “The Delvey Journal.” One sketch features the words “Retired Intern” in unmistakable New York Post font. Another shows Delvey lounging on an “ICEberg.”
As for the quality of the artwork (humble reminder that I’m no art critic), I would compare it to the kind of sketches a diligent if not necessarily gifted 12-year-old might produce after taking a couple drawing lessons. They’d definitely be the best thing on display at any middle school art show, but they aren’t really what you’d consider impressive by any other standard.
But Anna’s art wasn’t really the point. The show was the point, and Anna Delvey has always known how to put on a good one.
After the parade of models wrapped, the party continued upstairs where the sketches were on display for guests to get a better look — and where Anna did finally make an appearance, kind of. The woman of the evening joined virtually from her ICE detention center in upstate Orange County, greeting a room full of seemingly adoring fans. “She looks good,” several people commented when Anna appeared on screen. Later on the crowd serenaded her with chants of “FREE ANNA!”
So was it a scam? No. A stunt, maybe, but a thoroughly entertaining one. More than anything, it was a flex: a reminder that Anna Delvey can host the coolest, weirdest party in New York from behind bars — that she can convince us to go to her elaborate art show to look at her silly little sketches and we will absolutely eat it up. The whole thing was a little bizarre, a little funny, a little glamorous. On the whole, very Anna Delvey.
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