How Purple Magazine Intern-Turned-Scam Artist Anna Delvey Turned Contemporary Art Into the Perfect Tool for Fraud

artnet News | Ben Davis

The long New York magazine article this week about Purple intern-turned-socialite scam artist Anna Delvey (real name Anna Sorokin) has people in a tizzy. It’s a juicy tale, featuring cameo appearances by the likes of Beijing collector Michael Xufu Huang and odious “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli. Yet it remains, after all those many thousands of words, a little unclear just what exactly Delvey’s deal was, the exact proportion of craftiness to compulsion. In any case, it’s very much an art story, in that the entire fable that Delvey was able to spin—spellbinding people into providing the money that fueled her years-long walk on the fabulous side of New York—was that she was raising funds to build “a Soho House–ish type club… focused on art.” Art provided the circulatory system in which the grift traveled: Frieze, Art Basel, the Venice Biennale, openings at Pace Gallery, etc.

“The heart of the club would be, she said, a ‘dynamic visual-arts center,’ with a rotating array of pop-up shops curated by artist Daniel Arsham, whom she knew from her Purple days, and exhibitions and installations from blue-chip artists like Urs Fischer, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Tracey Emin,” we learn in between accounts of Delvey’s pricey dinners and extravagant hotel stays. “For the inaugural event, Anna told people, the artist Christo had agreed to wrap the building.”

This roster is a thin tissue of celebrity and scene-y artists favored by what my colleague Tim Schneider calls COINs (Collectors Only In Name), who just like to own the same kind of art #brands as the other people in their social set. Kylie Jenner revealed her collection to Vogue this week, and it’s about the same. What interests me in the tale is how the sleight of hand that allowed Delvey to perpetrate her improbably long-lasting scam—flaunting the signifiers of wealth without the reality of wealth—is duplicated in the way a superficial association with art is so often confused with the love and appreciation of art…read more

Image: Screenshot of Instagram post from @annadlvv, May 9, 2015.