Wait, Can We Talk About The Fact That Fotografiska Was Almost The Anna Delvey Foundation?

by Stephanie Maida · January 10, 2020

    There are quite a few New York hot spots that remind us of sociopath cult hero Anna Delvey: 11 Howard, The Beekman, Sadelle's, Riker's Island. But none so much as the property that ultimately led to her downfall - 281 Park Avenue South, which is now home to the city's latest buzzy art hub, Fotografiska.

    We've all heard the tale of Delvey, real name Anna Sorokin, the grifter who scammed the ambiguously wealthy crowd of party kids and socialites, and I'm sure we remember her grand plans of purchasing the landmarked former church building to turn it into the "Anna Delvey Foundation," a private social club slash "dynamic visual-arts center."

    At the height of her delusion, Delvey told people she'd secured the lease from the building's developer Aby Rosen, who also happened to own 11 Howard, the hotel she'd been living in, eventually racking up a bill of over $30,000 (she finally paid them by depositing bad checks and withdrawing the dough before the bank caught it). She met with the likes of André Balazs, who suggested turning two floors of the 45,000-square-foot space into hotel rooms. She enlisted Joel Cohen - ironically enough, the prosecutor of "Wolf of Wall Street" Jordan Belfort - who was working at firm Gibson Dunn, to help secure her a loan. Rosen's real estate firm, RFR, warned her that if she didn't come up with the money, they'd be signing it over to the other interested party, rumored to be the Swedish photography museum Fotografiska. “How do they even pay for that?” Anna fumed, according to The Cut. “It’s like two old guys.”

    What followed was an international web of wire transfers, bad checks, and correspondence with a fictional family financial adviser. After misdemeanor charges were filed against her for theft of services in July 2017, she was finally picked up in Malibu in October 2017 on six counts of grand larceny and attempted grand larceny. While sitting in prison, her biggest woe seemed to be the fact that Fotografiska got the building. 

    The world will never know the Anna Delvey Foundation that could have been - the rotating pop-up shops curated by Daniel Arsham, the installations by Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Tracey Emin - but at least we have the Stephen Starr restaurant Verōnika, and honestly, that's good enough for us.

    [Photo via Fotografiska]