On New York City’s Lower East Side last night, “Free Anna Delvey! Free Anna Delvey!” a foot-stamping crowd cried. Many i-Phone cameras, local TV staffers, and a number of would-be documentarians filmed the chanting circle. In the center of it, holding up a phone with the prison-communication app “Getting Out” installed, was art curator Alfredo Martinez. This was the scene four hours into an art exhibition devoted to convicted con artist Anna “Delvey” Sorokin.
In a call from Sorokin to Martinez held about 9 pm, Sorokin, speaking from Orange County Correctional Facility in Goshen, NY, told partygoers on speakerphone that she was “so grateful” for their support and that her number-one wish for 2022 was “ getting out of jail!”
“Zdank you, Thyank you. I hope everyone is enjoying the night!” Sorokin, an unseen presence with squeaky voice and indecipherable accent, said.
Sorokin is the subject of the hugely popular Netflix series Inventing Anna and has become something of the “Tiger King” of the post-Covid era. Sorokin is currently in custody and fighting deportation to Germany. Five drawings/cartoons by her, in collaboration with artist and convicted forger Martinez, were on view. The images show her “manipulating the world,” noted Martinez.
The group exhibition—which runs though March 24 at 176 Delancey Street, and which also features a live caged hamster named “Manafort,” among other installations and artworks—“is really helping Anna,” with her fight against deportation, said Ira Meyerowitz, a New York attorney who said he was working as her general counsel. Her legal team is seeking an O-1 visa exemption for “creatives.” According to US Customs, these are granted to someone “who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally.”
This reporter got a chance to briefly talk with Sorokin, and she now seems quite serious about and committed to art. “I’m making work right now for my solo show,” she said. It is already in the works. She also notes “I am looking forward to seeing pictures and videos” of the group event.
Sadly, the noise of this all was really freaking out the hamster. As co-curator Julia Morrison thoughtfully shredded paper to give him more cover, author, artist, and Daily Beast writer Anthony Haden-Guest cried out from the back garden over the band: “I’m here from PETA.”
Crowds grew until it was a slide sideways to get through the Delancey Street space. Not only was no one wearing a mask, no one was wiping down the marijuana pipes being passed around. Morrison said she wanted to help Sorokin “pivot into the art world” because her own mom was also jailed on immigration issues.
Sorokin was charged in 2017 for fleecing New York City’s high society, bankers, luxury hotels and restaurants by pretending to be a German heiress. She was convicted of grand larceny in 2019 and sentenced to four years in prison. She was released in 2021 for good behavior and was slated to be deported earlier this week but missed the plane, according to her immigration attorney.
“We’re here for you, it’s going to be okay, I have a bottle of tequila for when you get out.”
The crowd featured some young people in sweats who still looked like they were using their parents’ Netflix accounts, but fashionistas and art-worlders were in attendance, too. Much-published street photographer Ruben Natal-San Miguel—dressed in “Prada, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Converse”—noted with surprise the number of “Anna Delvey doubles,” at the party. Several 20-somethings sported short dresses, boots and occasionally chunky Celine-style glasses.
One of these kept grabbing the phone and comforting Sorokin. “We’re here for you, it’s going to be okay, I have a bottle of tequila for when you get out.”
How did this person know her, this reporter asked. “I never met her but I do have,” she said, brandishing a bottle, “the tequila!”
“You have a lot of fame-chasers here,” said M. Charlene Stevens, a writer and curator who opened Arcade Projects Curatorial at 56 Bogart Street, Brooklyn, earlier this month. She made this observation as people took selfies on the prison-toilet sculpture in the middle of the room. (“It’s Duchampian!”)
A quarter of the proceeds of the group exhibition is pledged to Sorokin’s legal fees (no totals yet.) She may need the money. There’s ”a lot of lawyers, lot of people around who think they are going to get paid,” fretted Morrison, artist of both the toilet and hamster installations. Meyerowitz said he’s not worried about that with the air of a man who expects to be able to buy Gstaad.
As the event wound down, the crowd started making runs to nearby Valencia 99-cent Pizza At the counter, we caught up with Natal-San Miguel again. Was he heading home to watch Inventing Anna? He said: “No, no, no, she was a scammer. I”m watching [Netflix’s new series] ‘The Andy Warhol Diaries.’ He was a good artist.”