Southampton billionaire Derwood Hodgegrass told South O’ the Highway that he’s no longer seeking an artist to paint, sculpt or draw his portrait. Instead, the wealthy eccentric will embark on his own career in the arts.
“I had some wonderful proposals and kind offers from dozens of artists,” Hodgegrass said of his recent open call for local artists to create his portrait. “Then it occurred to me that I have enough time and money to try painting my own portrait, to try my hand at this art thing.” He noted that a few locals stood out with very creative ideas during his search for this year’s portrait artist, and named East Hampton painter/photographer Peter Ngo chief among them.
“Ngo’s ideas were special,” Hodgegrass said, though he wouldn’t elaborate on the details. “He had unique proposals that could be interactive and would evolve over time, but I suspect he’ll want to keep them close to the vest in case another billionaire with nearly unlimited funds wants to commission him for such a project.”
Hodgegrass said he was also quite pleased to hear from painter Charles Wildbank and Southampton lighting designer and steampunk artist/ambassador Art Donovan. “These people are among our greatest talents, but I really want to do this myself now,” the billionaire said.
To get started, Hodgegrass has flown in Hungarian art superstar Nisan Täuschen, who will serve as a “teacher and mentor” in the coming weeks. Täuschen painted his portrait in 2005, but this time Hodgegrass said the artist will only guide him in his new endeavor. “Nisan won’t be painting anything — that’s going to be my job — and the end result will be a fabulous self portrait, I hope,” he explained, adding, “I don’t yet know whether this will be about high concept and figuring out how to accomplish it, or if it will be a purer, brush-in-hand kind of experience.”
Berry Baskin, Hodgegrass’ estate manager, said he’s already looking into ordering large quantities of powdered precious metals, raw gems and diamond dust, which would be “quite costly.” When asked about it, Hodgegrass said he is also considering melting down some gold bars and using the liquified metal in some way. “Andy Warhol used diamond dust in his work, and I’m much richer than he was, so it seems appropriate that I include some materials in the work to represent my financial independence — my way of life,” he said.
In related news, Hodgegrass has moved five juvenile elephants into a barn, with an adjacent fenced-in paddock on his Southampton estate. He said a celebrity pal mistakenly adopted them from Africa, thinking the pachyderms would be part of a “March of Dimes-type program,” rather than actually being delivered to her home.
The billionaire said he has also hired several scientists and engineers to begin work on a device to warm the ocean in the vicinity of his Southampton home. “If all goes according to plan — and I think it will — we’ll be swimming year round in no time,” Hodgegrass said.