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Gagosian Director Suspended After Misconduct Allegations

Gagosian, one of the most powerful galleries in the art world, suspended a director after accusations of misconduct.

Sam Orlofsky, a high-ranking employee at the gallery in New York, was suspended without pay, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

“Recently two social media accounts have alleged that a Gallery employee has engaged in serious misconduct, and, following these posts, we have received complaints about this person from current and former employees,” according to a letter sent to the gallery’s staff by Larry Gagosian on Friday that was reviewed by Bloomberg News.

The letter didn’t specify whether former and current employees experienced the alleged behavior firsthand or observed it. The gallery has initiated an investigation with outside counsel, the letter said.

“Mr. Orlofsky intends to fully cooperate in the company’s inquiry into these matters, and, to permit that process to appropriately proceed,” John J. Rosenberg, a lawyer representing Orlofsky, told Bloomberg. A Gagosian spokesperson declined further comment.

Gagosian is owned by Larry Gagosian, who for decades cultivated billionaire clients from finance, the film industry and publishing. He operates eighteen spaces across the globe, according to the firm’s website, and has also led the charge into online viewing rooms — well before the pandemic restricted visits to galleries and auction houses.

Orlofsky joined Gagosian in 2001, rising to become one of its top sellers. He’s worked closely with artists including Dan Colen, Roe Ethridge, Mark Grotjahn, Jennifer Guidi, Alex Israel, Titus Kaphar, Shio Kusaka, Mary Weatherford, and Jonas Wood.

In recent years, he led efforts to innovate, including launching online viewing rooms in 2018 and a new live-streaming series, Gagosian Premieres, this month. Last week, Artnet News featured Orlofsky in its article “Meet the New Innovators: 8 Institutional Change Agents Pushing Their Organizations Into the Future.”

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Trump Painting May Fetch $750,000 at Auction Before Election

Before he became U.S. President, Donald Trump used $10,000 from his foundation to buy a six-foot-tall oil portrait of himself at auction.

Next week, he’ll have a chance to bid on a bigger, albeit less flattering image: “Trump Descending an Escalator.”

The 2017 painting by New York artist Dana Schutz depicts a familiar stocky figure with bulging eyes riding down a golden escalator. The work is a highlight of the 20th century and contemporary art auction at Phillips being held just two weeks before the U.S. election. About 7-feet-tall and 6-feet-wide, it will be offered in London on Oct. 20, with an estimate of 380,000 pounds to 580,000 pounds ($750,000).

“Dana Schutz is one of the most significant painters of her generation and she has never shied away from challenging or hot button subjects,” said Robert Manley, deputy chairman at Phillips. The work touches “on a dizzying array of politics, art history and pop art.”

The image riffs on Trump’s famous 2015 escalator ride at Trump Tower in New York when he announced he was running for president. The moment became fodder for late-night comedians and made a cameo appearance on “The Simpsons.” It’s also a nod to “Nude Descending a Staircase,” a 1912 canvas by Marcel Duchamp.

Schutz, 44, is known for large and bold figurative canvases that re-imagine historic and mundane situations, often by adding elements of the absurd. She created the Trump work for a fundraiser at Petzel gallery in New York in January 2017.

“I don’t really make super-topical paintings,” Schutz later said about the Trump painting in a New Yorker interview. “But I wanted to get that moment of suspense, when you know something is going to happen and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

While not overtly political, Schutz’s work has sparked controversy. Soon after the Petzel show, another painting, “Open Casket,” depicting Black teenager Emmett Till who was tortured and lynched in 1955, drew protests and calls for removal – and even destruction – at the Whitney Biennial. The artist, who is White, was accused by activists of exploiting Black history. The painting remained on view, but Schutz had said she won’t sell it.

“Trump Descending an Escalator” was priced at $200,000 when it sold in 2017 to an anonymous collector, according to Petzel. The artist’s auction record is $2.4 million.

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