By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Boone couldn’t take it anymore. “Listen, Malcolm,” she told him, “I don’t really want an artist in my gallery that does not want to be there.” She and Morley agreed to rip up their contract. Immediately Morley joined Glimcher’s Pace Gallery.
Briefly, Boone considered suing Ovitz and Glimcher for contract interference. Catching wind of this, Glimcher tried sending Boone a conciliatory letter, dated April 7, 1987, claiming, “It is important to me that you realize that none of this was directed at you by me in any way. You were, unfortunately, the unwitting legatee of the negative aspects of these long negotiations. Currently, the art world seems to revolve around gossip.”
He never mentioned Ovitz. Neither did Boone’s reply, dated 10 days later. “It is true that gossip and rumors are all too prevalent in the art world, however they are not present here. The reality of the events as relayed to me from sources whom I believe we would both find reliable and from collectors normally associated with your gallery is that you clearly maliciously slandered my reputation with information and stories you knew to be lies.” Glimcher did not respond.
Soon, the news that a Hollywood agent was interfering in the art world hit the headlines: “Money Changes Everything,” “The Art Boom and the Disease of Acquisition.” In September 1987, Vanity Fair published an article, “The Art of Musical Chairs,” that soft-pedaled Ovitz’s unsavory role in the Boone-Glimcher-Morley brouhaha. The article even had Ovitz claiming it was Morley who’d first brought up the rumors, and that Ovitz had knocked them down.
Exactly how close Glimcher and Ovitz had become was soon clear to Edith Newhall, who, as an associate editor at New York magazine, began reporting a lengthy profile of Arne Glimcher in 1988. After she wrote Glimcher a letter asking for an interview, the magazine suddenly received a phone call from Ovitz. The agent had a brief conversation with Newhall’s editor, Peter Herbst, saying he was calling on Glimcher’s behalf to find out what kind of article Newhall was writing.
On September 12, 1988, in an article headlined “Hollywood Casts Shadow on Art Scene,” the New York Post’s Page Six reported that “any art dealer who doesn’t know who Michael Ovitz is better find out. It looks like the king of Hollywood dealmakers wants to tread on New York’s art turf,” noting that CAA was considering adding painters to its client roster: “The scariest thought for New York’s gallery owners could be that Ovitz may teach painters a new word: agent.” The article maintained that Ovitz had been “growing ever cozier” with Glimcher, and may even have become Glimcher’s partner.
Indeed, dealers commonly believed that Glimcher was giving Ovitz deep discounts — perhaps even selling him art at cost and without commission. Castelli, too, heard rumors that Ovitz had a “special deal” with Pace. In article after article, Glimcher insisted that everyone paid him a commission. And while researching her New York magazine article, Edith Newhall could not verify the charges. “I think I spoke to enough people who would have told me off the record that these things were true if they’d heard them,” Newhall explained. “And no one did. Afterward, when the article came out, no one wrote to me saying that I was wrong.” But when Malcolm Morley held his first Pace show the following year, Ovitz got the pick of the artist’s work. In fact, the painting was so big that Ovitz had to extend his dining room wall by eight inches. (Glimcher didn’t return calls for comment about this story.)
Meanwhile, in Hollywood, Ovitz’s backing of Glimcher was no secret. In 1988, represented by Ovitz, Glimcher got executive producer credit on two big Hollywood movies, Gorillas in the Mist and The Good Mother. Glimcher was constantly dropping Ovitz’s name into every conversation. By 1989, Glimcher felt sufficiently schooled in moviemaking to jump from producer to director. That year, the hot property in Hollywood was Oscar Hijuelos’ The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, and CAA controlled it. Ovitz delivered the book to Glimcher. (When the film came out in 1992, The New York Times film critic Vincent Canby said Glimcher at times didn’t even “seem to know where to put the camera.”)
By 1989, Ovitz secured a star for himself in the art cosmos when he finally made the cut for Art&Antiques’ annual list of America’s top 100 collectors. Noting that Ovitz was “tight-lipped” about his collection, the magazine declared him “one of the most active collectors of blue-chip contemporary paintings,” and publicized his relationship with “close chum” Glimcher. Included in his collection, the editors said, were Picasso, Stella, Kiefer, Terry Winters, Fischl, “and lots of West Coast African art,” which also happened to be one of Glimcher’s passions. The following year, Ovitz was listed with his photograph and an interview.