Art Dealer Trying To Make L.A. 'Happen' Also Ripped Off Eli Broad, Michael Ovitz
It turns out that a hotshot New York art dealer who came west to cash in on L.A.'s nascent art boom also scammed quite a few notable Angelenos. Perry Rubenstein, who opened his eponymous Hollywood gallery in 2012, was arrested Thursday on three felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement for shady deals with Eli Broad and former uber agent Michael Ovitz, according to the L.A. Times. The gallery filed for bankruptcy in 2014, and the Times reports that the gallery's list of creditors "reads like a Hollywood art-world summit," with bold-face names including Ovitz, Shepard Fairey and “The Mentalist" star Simon Baker.
One of the felony charges stems from a deal Rubenstein brokered between Broad and Michael Salke, a Massachusetts-based art collector, for a Takashi Murakami scroll. According to the Times, Salke contracted Rubenstein to sell the scroll for $750,000, then told Rubenstein that an unidentified buyer had agreed to buy it for $630,000. As the Times reports:
Payment for the scroll came in installments, eventually totaling $575,000, but when Rubenstein tried to add $20,000 to his commission, Salke filed a lawsuit, the detective wrote. During litigation, Salke learned that the buyer of the Murakami scroll, the Broad Foundation, paid $825,000 - far more than Rubenstein had let on, the affidavits written by LAPD Det. Gary Guevara said.
Allegedly, Rubenstein sold two Richard Prince pieces for nearly $1 million on behalf of Ovitz, but never turned over the proceeds. Court documents also indicate one of the works was sold for only $475,000, about $100,000 less than the agreed-upon price. Art Advisory Limited, an art consulting firm and one of the two buyers, joined the bandwagon as well, suing Rubenstein because he had never given them the painting.
Perry Rubenstein and his-then wife Sara Fitzmaurice at a 2012 gala. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)
Things looked far rosier for Rubenstein back in 2011, when he announced his family's move to L.A. and his plans to open said gallery in time for the 2012 Oscars. “I’m making a much more definitive statement about L.A. by making this our flagship gallery,” he told the Times. “It’s no longer the sideshow; it’s no longer second to New York as an arts capital.”Despite being the ambassador our blooming art scene never needed or wanted, Rubenstein's evangelism for his adopted city continued in 2013, when he told BlouinArtInfo that he often "joke[s] that the powers that be should deputize me as the president of the Chamber of Commerce here as there is nothing like the zealotry of a convert." Which, for the record, we are all very grateful never happened.
“I have been rendered penniless,” Rubenstein wrote in an October bankruptcy filing, adding that he takes full responsibility for the demise of his gallery. Anyone wanna scrounge up a few bucks to buy him a one-way ticket back to the Rotten Apple?