After the Bubble, Beauty Is But Fleeting for Greenspan Portraits
Some Owners Who Paid Top Dollar Stash Paintings of Ex-Fed Chief in Closet, Under Bed
In the offices of the Hennessee Group hang two oil paintings and two prints, each portraying the bespectacled visage of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.
“What I should do is make them into a dart board,” says Charles Gradante, who with his wife, Lee Hennessee, runs the Fifth Avenue firm that advises investors in hedge funds. “All I see when I look at these paintings are two market crashes, a bear market, and the current economic crisis.”
Graphic (“Irrational Exuberance” by Erin Crowe):
A gallery in the Hamptons that exhibited [Ms. Crowe's] paintings in the summer of 2005 sold every one within a couple of days, recalls Sally Breen, who organized the show with Rebecca Cooper. She had a second Greenspan show in downtown Manhattan. Ms. Crowe says she produced upwards of 50 canvasses of Mr. Greenspan. All were snapped up, some for as much as $5,000 to $10,000, she says.
As her popularity grew, Ms. Crowe flew business class to Hong Kong, where she painted portraits of leading financial figures, including Hong Kong’s chief executive and the head of its Monetary Authority. She realized that she’d found her niche: painting financial gurus. The future looked dazzling.
She painted one of the portraits on live television when Mr. Greenspan retired. It fetched $150,400 for charity in an online auction.
Then again, the Greenspaniard who shelled out that 150 large found his exuberance to be, well, irrational.
Now, the man who bought that painting, Tampa Bay-area businessman Matthew Schirmer, says he keeps it under his bed.
Mr. Schirmer says he had high hopes for the painting when he bought it in 2006 with his brother, Nathan. The money they spent went to a worthy cause, autism research. But Mr. Schirmer says he was hoping to raise even more money for a favorite charity, Autism Speaks.
“We thought, let us ride this wave,” he recalls. Mr. Schirmer paid to have 100 high-quality prints made of the painting. He flew Ms. Crowe to Florida to sign them. Her painting was placed on an easel in the lobby of a Tampa-area bank Mr. Schirmer helped found. Mr. Schirmer anticipated holding charity fund-raisers with the Greenspan painting as a draw.
“There was no interest,” he says. To this day, he hasn’t sold any prints, he says, “not a single one.” The original painting could still recover some value, he says. “I hate to tell you, but we are kind of waiting for him to pass on.”
Alan Greenspan. Wanted: Dead not Alive.