Art

Living the High Life With an Infamous (and Now-Vanished) Art Dealer

Inigo Philbrick went missing late last year

Jeff Elrod's "No Signal"
Jeff Elrod's "No Signal" when it was on view in Inigo Philbrick's Miami gallery.
Inigo Philbrick
By Tobias Carroll / March 17, 2020 1:13 pm

Late last year brought the news that an art dealer named Inigo Philbrick had gone missing. Given the circumstances, it wasn’t hard to see why: Philbrick had enacted a complex web of sales and counter-sales, and it had finally caught up to him. Think of the narrative of Uncut Gems, but with less basketball and more contemporary art, and you’ll get a sense of how Philbrick was attempting to make money and manipulate art markets.

Now, Philbrick’s lavish lifestyle has prompted a couple of articles to revisit his heyday and his misdeeds. Last week, Jacob Bernstein at The New York Times delved into the complexities of Philbrick’s life — and how elements of it came crashing down around him.

Although a British court has frozen Mr. Philbrick’s assets, and numerous former clients have filed lawsuits in London, Miami and New York, Mr. Philbrick has not been charged with a crime. He did not respond to emails and messages sent to his Instagram account. Calls to his cellphone rang until they didn’t.

Subsequently, at Vulture, arts writer Kenny Schachter — a onetime friend of Philbrick’s — offered a candid look at his association with Philbrick. The two first met in 2012. “For a few years, we drank a great deal of very expensive wine and ate obscenely priced sushi rolls,” Schachter writes. Also involved: intense hugs, global travel and an abundance of profit. As Schachter puts it:

Through all of this, he helped me make a good deal of money, I’ll admit. He’d sell me, say, a Christopher Wool work on paper for around $800,000 or a Rudolf Stingel on canvas for around a million dollars, then he’d resell it to another client and we’d both pocket a few hundred thousand.

The story abounds with ethical lapses, glimpses of high society and enough excess to make even the most hardened hedonists say, “That seems a little much, don’t you think?” But it’s a fascinating look into the mind of someone who’s fundamentally unknowable — and, one suspects, who’ll be the subject of a gripping book or movie before too long.

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