Prison-Bound Art Dealer Draws a Crowd Before Closing Her Galleries

(Bloomberg) -- Mary Boone’s Fifth Avenue gallery was hopping Thursday night, about two months before the famed art dealer heads to federal prison for income-tax evasion.

The jam-packed opening for “New Icons,” an exhibit of works by New York’s Derrick Adams, drew artist Mickalene Thomas and her partner Racquel Chevremont, curator Nicola Vassell and writer Antwaun Sargent. Cameras flashed as guests posed in front of the canvases of oversize emojis. Boone, in a sleek Michael Kors dress, hugged the artists and smiled for a photographer. The last show at her other gallery in Chelsea opens Saturday.

Prison-Bound Art Dealer Draws a Crowd Before Closing Her Galleries

Last month, a judge sentenced Boone to 2 1/2 years in prison for failing to pay millions of dollars in income tax. She also drew 180 hours of community service instructing local high school teachers in the visual arts and working with underserved youth. She was ordered report to prison by May 15 and will have to close her galleries.

“I will do what I have to do,” Boone, 67, said Thursday, ahead of her rendezvous with the minimum-security prison camp for women in Danbury, Connecticut. She said she’s looking forward to "a fresh start" afterward -- “if I don’t die in prison.”

Boone rose to prominence as a young dealer in the early 1980s, representing hot young artists such as Julian Schnabel and David Salle. In 1982, she was featured on the cover of New York magazine, which dubbed her “The New Queen of the Art Scene.” In 2016, actor Alec Baldwin sued her over a Ross Bleckner painting.

Still, much of the focus Thursday night was on Adams, a rising star in the art world. The evening’s celebratory mood continued beyond a post-opening dinner and fanned out along a space atop the Standard Hotel, known as the "Boom Boom Room.”

About half of the 10 new paintings on view, which arrived at the gallery a day earlier, quickly sold at $60,000 apiece, according to the gallery. The works are representations through emojis of important American pop culture stars, including Grace Jones, Colin Kaepernick and Kanye West.

Prison-Bound Art Dealer Draws a Crowd Before Closing Her Galleries

Last week, another exhibition by Adams opened at Luxembourg & Dayan, a blue-chip gallery on the Upper East Side, where a different group of works sold out within minutes for $25,000 each.

Boone’s long-time partner Ron Warren said he expects her to overcome her current predicament and get a fresh start.

The judge “gave her a license to do that,” he said. “She’ll have an Act 2.”

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