I read the original New York Magazine exposé of Anna Delvey, the mysteriously-accented genius grifter, in bed one Saturday morning, phone a couple of inches from my riveted eyes, too fascinated to even reach over to my bedside table for my glasses.
While that was fun for a morning read, plus a few days of Twitter hilarity, I have to say I’m surprised that Delvey’s impact on the culture means she’s now the subject of a London exhibition viewed by thousands of people a day. That headline number’s a (not quite Delvey-level) trick though, as the gallery’s Soft Opening, the vitrine just inside one of the eastern exits of Piccadilly Circus tube station that I’ve featured previously on this site.
Despite the show’s title, its artist, Cynthia Talmadge, was inspired by a lot more than Delvey’s eye-catching court appearances. Fans of the original article will spot a matchbook from the Moroccan resort hotel that forms a key setpiece for one of the larger scams. Elsewhere, there’s a shopping bag, a courthouse building and a pair of theatrical masks: accessories of a deception. The wooden screen onto which these blue designs are painted seems like just another way of obscuring things.
Though despite my repeated visits (as a regular commuter) I’ve missed what apparently is the main action in the exhibition: every now and then a Delvey outfit is mechanically whipped in front of the screen, then back again.
Though seeing this exhibition did inspire me to revisit that jawdropping original article, so I’m pretty happy. A bit happier than Delvey too - despite her fame, which extends beyond this show and to an upcoming Netflix series, she was convicted of attempted grand larceny, among other charges, earlier this year and is currently in prison.
Cynthia Talmadge: Four Courtroom Outfits of Anna Delvey is at Soft Opening (London). September 14 - November 24 2019