After waiting at the door for half an hour, I walked into Anna Delvey’s artistic opening at the Public Hotel while hearing a drag queen do impressions of Julia Garner’s portrayal of Delvey in her Netflix series. Invent Anna, only to realize that the event was jam-packed with people who had the same goal as me – to find something to write about. At my first familiar face, I started laughing when I realized no one was there to just see the art.
The art was untraceable. Lots of wine, champagne, and cocktails such as ‘Anna on ICE’, named after where she is currently being held (your mileage may vary depending on how good you find this to taste.), were slung over the shoulder. I made polite eye contact with people I knew through professional connections, while assuming that anyone wearing an expensive bucket hat was there from the art world.
But where was the art? The art would be out soon, I was told. By models. Oh okay. Suddenly, a recording of a collect call came over the speakers. What looked like all the phones in the room turned on to record the message from Anna, who was excited to show us her art that she started drawing during her trial. “I hope you enjoy the show,” the infamous con man objected, and Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” played as models strutted around with art, with black stockings over their heads by- over huge sunglasses. It was absurd. It was a party planned by someone who looked at the Paris Hilton of the mid-2000s and said, “Let’s do this again, but cheekier.”
To some extent, I give him credit. The apparent reason we were all here, Anna Delvey, a person infamous for doing social tricks so people can’t figure out they’re being scammed. Delvey was making a bit of a joke where the presentation of the art was the same as what got her there in the first place: flash and glitter to distract you from the quality of the art itself. Of course, it’s funny! But when everyone in the room gets the joke, and can pat each other on the back with the joke and say “Oh, she’s funny!” Is a joke actually being told? Or are we all just in awe of ourselves for understanding the benchmark?
I tried to look for a genuine reaction, but quickly ran into the same problem as the majority of attendees: we were all there to review or report on it. The party took place in the lobby outside the bar, where everyone cheered for the models holding the art. They did a great job holding the art! I turned to the guy next to me and asked if he was there for work or for fun. Her response was “My friend is one of the models. The one that was in Top Model. “Which one is she?” I asked politely. “The one that was on Top Model.” “Where is she in the model range?” No response. Guess it was on me not to know, but I asked for information in hopes of gleaning some knowledge. Not a sin, in the grand scheme. A woman of ABC News asked me if I would like to give an interview on camera about the show. “Sorry, I’m here to Observe.” We both smiled and wished each other good luck.
Attendees were then taken upstairs in elevators where you could actually see the art. The art itself consists of sketches made with art supplies shipped to Anna via her team. Aside from the lack of quality tools, if I saw the art at a college art show, I would happily say “That 8th grader is really promising!” The point of the show wasn’t the actual art, and I went into it knowing that. The purpose was to spread Anna’s fame, Anna’s infamy, to establish it as she busied herself exceeding his residence visa in the United States. Anna is in a catch-22, in a way. Once out of prison, she may no longer be Anna. She might just be a known girl for one thing or another, and it doesn’t seem like she wants to be an ordinary person. QR codes were available to buy prints or a percentage of the originals, while everyone took pictures of the sketches and politely strolled around two large TV screens showing an iphone screen waiting to accept a call on an app of videoconferencing.
I turned to the friend I had brought with me, who said it was a miracle they hadn’t torn up his drawings in jail. We paused for a moment on that thought, which was thankfully shattered by another reporter, Abigail Covington of Squire, facing her mother, shouting “HEY, I’M AT A STUPID FUCKING MEDIA PARTY WITH A BANK OF STUPID FUCKIN MODELS.” The first real smile of my night spread across my face, relieved to see another person acknowledging out loud and happily how silly this all was. I immediately introduced myself, so happy to meet someone else with my mindset, and felt a kinship in our desire to just roll our eyes until they fell out of our heads. . I am not against art. I am not against stupidity. I’m not against tongue in cheek kayfabe – I’m a recognized and proud professional wrestling fan who combines all of these things in varying degrees. An underlying cynicism was in the room, and I had a hard time understanding if the cynic was me or the people who had planned the thing. In all likelihood, it was both.
Niki Takesh, charming New York socialite and co-host of the podcast Forbidden fruit, then FaceTimed Anna, with Anna showing off her yellow jumpsuit from an ICE establishment, thanking everyone for coming and answering questions about her artistic process as the lone cries of “FREE ANNA” echoed through the packed house. Niki was one of the few people in the room who had spoken to Anna before that night, and they knew each other well. I made sure I saw all the artwork, grabbed my bags and asked my plus one if we wanted to go get some food. We opted for a fried chicken around the corner. During our walk there, we realized that Niki and her friend were behind us, when Niki yelled “Who the fuck was somebody there?” It was all the media people,” and I thought, “Excellent question, Niki.”