By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Chrismas clearly hasn’t lost his flair for alienating people, and he continues to have legal problems. He was sued in 1999 by art dealer Burnett Miller, who committed suicide in 2001. Chrismas filed for bankruptcy again in 1999, too, but 18 months and a blizzard of paperwork later, his bankruptcy filing was dismissed. He was barred from filing Chapter 11 for two years, and ordered to immediately pay his creditors, which included the state Board of Equalization and the IRS.
Chrismas is nothing if not indefatigable, and three months after his defeat in court he took out the lease on the Beverly Hills building. Asked why he opened a second gallery here, Chrismas says, “When I saw [Sam Francis’] Edge Paintings, I knew I had to show them, and the ceilings aren’t high enough for them in the Wilshire space.” This explanation is puzzling given that last spring Chrismas announced that Ace/Beverly Hills would debut with a James Turrell show. What happened to Turrell? The artist declines to comment, but Chrismas says, “Jim wants to build a large environment in the new space, and he’s anxious to do something major in L.A., because it’s been so long since he’s done anything here.” In the meantime, an exhibition of new work by Mary Corse goes on view there on October 25.
Chrismas is devoting much of his energy these days to advancing the plans for Frank Gehry’s renovation of Ace/Beverly Hills. As to where they are in that process, Gehry says, “We’ve given him some direction as to where the project might go, and he’s used that to get some approvals and find money for it, but he hasn’t been back yet to say get going.”
Asked if he has any apprehension about embarking on a major project with Chrismas given his reputation, Gehry says, “I’ve known Doug for years, he’s one of the smartest guys in the art world, and we’ve worked together several times. He’s a special guy — complicated, but special — and I love him so much I wouldn’t want to get into something where it turned bad and we ended up not friends. I always tell him that, so I know he wants to be careful.”
It’s odd that Chrismas is eager to sink millions of dollars into a building he doesn’t own. Asked why he’s doing it, he says, “I want to give something meaningful to the city.
“If you wanted to have a thriving business, you wouldn’t do what I do,” Chrismas adds. “I’ve never wanted to be a classical-art dealer. The thing that excites me is enabling artists to feel loose and free in their approach to doing an exhibition, and the way you do that is by giving them space. I made a bond with myself long ago that the people who count are the artists.”
This article made my blood run cold. This is not ancient history. Douglas Chrismas and Jennifer Kellen are still committing crimes and destroying lives. How do they survive? By conning people.
thank you for the article. Sad that the art world is caught up in so much drama - I suppose it would not matter if it were not for the fact that people really do get hurt in the process. Art, such an important component to our culture and our existance yet fraught with so many mental cases...
in any event, keep up the good investigative journalism.
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