“We thought it would be great for me and my co-owners to do this show,” Bill Powers told me, “because each of us owns a real Condo!” The “Work of Art” judge, one of three proprietors of Half Gallery, was talking about the show of Eneas Capalbo’s fake George Condo paintings, which opened Saturday night.
The exhibition is timed to the Tuesday opening of a real Condo retrospective, “George Condo: Mental States,” at the New Museum. Condo was also recently in the spotlight for his censored cover for the most recent Kanye West album.
We asked the artist the moot question about cashing in, and he ignored it. Powers himself admitted to some trepidation about the timing, but pointed out that Condo had given his blessing in a recent conversation at MoMA—”you’ve got to do it,” he reportedly told the dealer.
This also marked the 10-year anniversary of Capalbo’s unveiling, at the Esso Gallery in New York, of his fake Condos, each a copy of one of Condo’s Surrealist-hilarious “portraits,” typically depicting imaginary subjects. The 2001 show was billed as being by “Eneas,” which led Ken Johnson, in the New York Times, to wonder whether the artist was a creation of “the sly Mr. Condo.”
In fact, the 34-year-old Capalbo is a society portraitist who grew up in Buenos Aires.
Capalbo, a diminutive ball of energy, described the ongoing project as an homage. “I started it 10 years ago, when no one gave a shit about Condo,” he said. “I do it because I want to paint like him. He is the greatest painter alive!”
Asked to characterize Condo’s greatest painterly qualities, the voluble Capalbo was at a loss. If there is a tribute here, it’s more in the gesture than in the exactitude of the replications, the inert brushwork or the color of these canvases. The works are in acrylic rather than Condo’s luscious oils. The faces appear strangely unfunny compared to a monograph that Powers referenced while matching Capalbo’s versions with the originals.
But the fake Condos brought out a crowd not unbecoming for the real things: Ann Dexter Jones and Mick Jones, Waris Ahluwalia, Art Production Fund’s Yvonne Force Villareal and artist Leo Villareal, artist Adam McEwen. A party bus ferried guests to dinner after the opening on a night when temperatures were in the teens.
There was no sign of the real Condo, whose paintings sell for anywhere between $75,000 and $450,000. Those who want a fake can pick one up for $3,000 to $12,000.
A friend of the artist asked him, “Do you think it takes him, like, six months to make his paintings, but it takes you maybe a half an hour?”
“Psh!” he replied, “It takes him six minutes. He paints wet on wet. That’s the whole point.”