Recent art world news carried stories about an elite secondary market art trader named Inigo Philbrick, who scammed several savvy art dealers.
How Inigo Philbrick Rose to Become a Prominent Figure in the Art World
A secondary market, art trader can be anyone, an art collector, an art dealer or a representative of an art business. In his case, Inigo Philbrick is both an art dealer and a representative of an art business known as Modern Collections. The latter is a London-based secondary market art dealership company founded and owned by prominent London art dealer and gallerist, Jeremy Michael “Jay” Jopling.
Now Jay Jopling also founded and owns White Cube Gallery, one of London’s prestigious galleries, and where Inigo Philbrick landed work as an intern at the age of 23. Somehow, the young Philbrick was able to rise quickly from the ranks, fast enough to be chosen by Jopling as head of his new secondary market dealership firm, the Modern Collections.
According to Jopling,
”Philbrick impressed me as smart and ambitious young man who has a good eye for art and at the same time possesses a remarkable commercial sense.”
Little did Jay Jopling know that his young protege was too smart and too ambitious for Jopling’s own good. Apparently, Philbrick found a loophole in the way second hand market dealers make a profit in their art trading activities: by way of shell companies. The system enabled Philbrick to buy and sell of previously owned art pieces, but without attributing the transactions either to Modern Collections or to White Cube.
Apparently, Philbrick’s scam also involved using shell corporations.
The Scams of Inigo Philbrick in a Nutshell
After getting himself appointed as the head of Modern Collections, Philbrick soon became an ever present figure in prestigious art events and auctions, particularly during VIP opening days. In 2018, the seemingly successful art dealer from London acquired a 7-year lease in Miami’s Design District to start his own art dealership business.
However, a year later, Philbrick vanished, leaving behind a trail of multiple lawsuits in London, New York City and Miami. They were filed by sophisticated art collectors and dealers, all claiming ownership over the same artworks, including Jay Jopling. Apparently, Jopling’s protege had been into selling single art pieces to multiple clients. In other cases, he is being sued for not delivering artworks he had pledged as collateral for multi million-dollar loans.
Other claimants are disgruntled art dealers who partnered with Philbrick in buying and selling secondary market artworks, but never received their share of the profit; nor able to acquire ownership of the objects in question. Simply because Philbrick likewise promised or sold them to several dealers and clients. Soon enough, when Philbrick started defaulting on those loans, it became clear that other collectors and/or dealers had been duped into buying the same art items.
According to reports in the art world, so far, only four (4) including Jopling, have succeeded in filing an injunction that would enable them to recover their losses by seizing Philbrick’s personal and business assets. The amounts of which have been pegged at $70 million and $150 million, respectively.