I had so many questions about “Allegedly,” the Anna Delvey one-night-only art exhibit that took over the Public Hotel last night, before even getting to the venue. In primis: how do you mount a show—how do you even make art—while detained by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) in upstate Orange County?
Turns out, Delvey’s ability to source art materials and get her work to be seen by the outside world while imprisoned were some of the least odd aspects of the entire hoopla.
Upon arriving at the Public Hotel with a VIP confirmation in hand—an email by Christopher Martine, her supposed art salesman and the man behind the Founders Art Club—I was shuttled from one security guard to another while getting trampled by what seemed to be hundreds of Anna fans dressed in self-proclaimed high-fashion garb, extraordinarily loud makeup and donning the sorts of smiles that only a certain sect of wide-eyed, young, temporary New Yorkers could so proudly display.
To put it simply: nobody knew what was going on. I was initially told that I had missed the first part of the presentation—a cocktail hour inside Bar Chrystie where a pre-recorded message by 31-year-old Delvey, whose real name is Anna Sorokin, was aired. I was then prompted to join the extraordinarily long line to get to the rooftop of the hotel, where 20 of Delvey’s pieces would be on display.
After arguing with three separate security guards about who had the authority to let me in and coming to terms with the fact that I’d just have to leave, a beautiful young woman took a look at my email and escorted me to the rooftop—where the stunning views and the open bar suddenly made the downstairs chaos worth suffering through.
Filled with the same caliber of people that patronized the lobby of the hotel, the rooftop was a remarkable real-life version of the Shonda Rhimes Netflix show, Inventing Anna, that arguably propelled Delvey, a fake German heiress that served nearly four years in prison on charges of grifting friends and businesses all around town, to new levels of fame. Talk about meta.
The excitement was palpable as folks patiently waited for Delvey to make a video appearance straight from ICE. Paradoxically, everyone in the room was being interviewed… but was also the interviewer. Inside of this tiny bubble in Manhattan, all appeared to be famous by mere desire for fame. All I kept wondering was, who are these people?
“That’s exactly what I was thinking!” a fellow skeptic said to me when asked about her impressions. Alas, said cynic did also reveal that she had just purchased one of Delvey’s prints for $250—an interesting bit of information given her initial comment and the fact that Martine had previously explained to me that the collection was valued at nearly half-a-million dollars.
Scheduled to appear on video by 9:20pm, technical difficulties brought the one-and-only Delvey smack-dab in the middle of the room (virtually, of course) closer to 9:45pm. A few notes to check off: yes, she spoke in her signature odd accent and, yes, she wore those thick-framed black glasses that have become her trademark of sorts.
With the audio not properly functioning, I had to simply assume that what Delvey took the time to say was relatively similar to the answers that she supposedly granted me via email (her rep, another pretty sketchy personality, assured me that the answers he provided me via email were texted to him by Delvey herself. Apparently, ICE lets you use your phone).
“And if the popularity of an exhibit of amateur artworks by a con artist is of any indication, Delvey has surely made it—at least by New York standards.”
“There are so many things that [have] simply been assumed, and so much more that people don’t know about,” Delvey told me via her email. “I see my art as an opportunity to begin telling my side of the story. I’m very excited for everyone to see the works—I’ve been working on them for months. We have a couple of surprises planned so I don’t want to share too much. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Needless to say: there were no surprises at the event—unless, of course, you find a mob of New Yorkers excitedly waiting for a video appearance by a convicted felon to be surprising.
One thing was consistently apparent throughout the experience: everybody was a nobody but acted like a somebody—a fact of life that resonated even more strongly given that Delvey’s entire modus operandi, the reason we even know who Delvey is, is anchored on her desire to fake it until she made it. And if the popularity of an exhibit of amateur artworks by a con artist is of any indication, Delvey has surely made it—at least by New York standards.
Interestingly enough, “Allegedly” was mounted the same week as Frieze Art Fair takes places, when art-adjacent folks flood The Shed at Hudson Yards to spend hours pontificating on the sort of works that, to the average New Yorker, might look remarkably similar to Delvey’s prints.
Which is all to say: Illegalities aside, Delvey is a pure product of the city that she so ardently wished to be a part of. And, perhaps, if her odd art exhibit is of any indication, she also functions as a mirror to our beloved town. What is New York, after all, if not a group of excited want-to-be-somethings all stuck in a room together listening to the wannabe-in-chief while admiring beautiful skyline views?