Can you find beauty in these ugly pictures?
By Kinjal Trivedi
An artist pretended to be a billionaire to infiltrate New York’s most elite apartments and take ‘ugly pictures of very fancy buildings’.
Budapest-based Hungarian artist Andi Schmied, while in New York as part of a Triangle Arts Association residency, made up a very clever story and some acting skills. Schmied gained access to some of the city’s most coveted properties and took photos of the generic signifiers of outrageous wealth.
Schmied posed as “Gabriella” (the artist’s middle name), a mother of one and whose husband is an antiques dealer (she had a friend go along with the ruse). Based on the supposed glamour of her husband’s profession, the artist talked her way into 25 of the city’s priciest properties, including architect Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Avenue, where a 96th-floor unit sold for $87.7 million in 2016. She also infiltrated apartments at the Time Warner Center, 432 Park Avenue, and Central Park Tower, the tallest residential building in the world.
The artist is publishing her photos in the book Private Views: A High-Rise Panorama of Manhattan, available next month from Prague’s Vi Pier Gallery in an edition of 1,000. But don’t expect it to be a coffee table volume devoted to glossy shots of aspirational luxury.
“I do a lot of photography, but it’s very objectively, technically, not good photography,” the artist told Artnet News. “These are ugly pictures of very fancy buildings.”
Some of the artist’s images resemble classic promotional photos, while others depict less flattering scenes, like the view on a cloudy day, when fog has obscured the city. In many places, the real estate agents’ sales patter is transcribed atop the photos, including trash-talk about their competitors’ properties.
Private Views also includes an interview between the co-founders of Prague’s VIPER gallery (architectural historian Irena Lehkoživová and art historian Barbora Špičáková) and Schmied and “Gabriella.” The late architect and critic Michael Sorkin also pretended to be an apartment shopper in order to pen his own acid critique for the book, while architectural historian Anthony Vidler contributes a text from a fictitious “little black book” by one “Anatole Frobisher Abramsky Esquire,” allegedly found in a penthouse at Hudson Yards.
So, now that the book is almost done, where is “Gabriella?” Has she found her luxury aerie? Schmied thinks so.
“I think she’s in her soaking tub near the window,” said the artist, “having champagne with her husband.”