On Wednesday night, as auction watchers reeled over the sale of Jeff Koons’s Rabbit (1986) for a record-breaking $91.1 million, a bootleg version of that same work couldn’t seem to stand upright on its pedestal across town. But the creator of the knockoff “Rabbit,” artist Eric Doeringer, had an easy solution as he picked his sculpture up from the floor, pulled out its stopper (this one is an actual inflatable toy, not just made to look like one), blew it up, and positioned it back where it belonged.
“The good thing about [this] Rabbit is that if its gets scratched, you can just blow it up again,” said Adam Cohen of A Hug from the Art World, a roaming exhibition initiative that organized Doeringer’s mock auction (mocktion?) “Christy’s” at the High Line Nine galleries in Chelsea. The one-night event in the middle of the May auctions abounded with knockoff art by Doeringer as the real sale at Christie’s in Midtown screened on a laptop nearby.
“It’s just a travesty,” New York art critic Jerry Saltz lamented to a small crowd that had gathered for the evening. He was referring to the sale of Paul Cézanne’s Bouilloire et Fruits (1888–1890) at Christie’s the night before for $59.3 million. Doeringer’s prices are a little lower, with bootleg works riffing on Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Frank Stella sharing the same flat-rate price of $1,000. Saltz said he owns a couple of Doeringer’s works, and Roberta Smith, the New York Times‘s co-chief art critic and his wife, recently bought him a fake On Kawara work for his birthday. On Wednesday, he had his eye on a would-be Lucio Fontana slashed canvas. “I’ve had a lot of people try to make me Fontanas,” Saltz said, “but none quite like this one.”
Others who own knockoffs by Doeringer include Maurizio Cattelan, Larry Clark, and Jared Leto. Doeringer himself is a savvy swindler; since 2001, he’s sold knockoff artworks on the streets outside Chelsea galleries such as Marianne Boesky and Gagosian, at first for prices around $40-$60 and now for more. He’s never been arrested—though once, he said, Chelsea dealer Mike Weiss approached him angrily. “I was fine,” he noted. “I don’t think they’ll ever arrest me.”
Though the night was fueled by a satirical disdain for the market, Doeringer was making sales. Seven of his Rabbit sculptures had sold. And Cohen said he’d managed to move “the Rauschenberg, a Haring, a Hockney, a couple Fontanas, and a bunch of Double Elvises.”