Southampton billionaire Derwood Hodgegrass is seeking a Hamptons-based artist to paint his next portrait, and the competition is getting fierce.
In a radio announcement that aired Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the wealthy eccentric said he is considering artists working in all media, including sculptors. “My first thought would be a grand and inspiring painting, but I’m not averse to the idea of seeing myself in marble, elephant dung or perhaps onyx or obsidian, depending on the artist’s vision,” he said. “It simply must be iconic and powerful enough to command a room,” Hodgegrass added. “My rooms are quite large, so the piece must be mighty in scale or pathos.”
Hodgegrass, who commissions a portrait every few years, worked with then rising Hungarian sensation Nisan Täuschen for his last major portrait in 2005. The artist produced a somewhat vexing work, with which the billionaire immediately fell in love. “Though it isn’t an exact representation of my visage, that portrait captures perfectly my beguiling, devious side—like a playful Loki from Norse mythology,” he said of the painting, adding, “Täuschen and I remain the best of friends.”
The scuttlebutt around town is that Hodgegrass first approached Chuck Close to paint his picture, but the famous painter denied his request. The billionaire has since denied even considering Close for the job. “Close is rather pedestrian, don’t you think?” Hodgegrass said. “I’m looking for something more sophisticated, more dynamic,” he continued. “It needs to be avant-garde, cutting edge, new, contemporary, challenging, authentic and absolutely local—I need someone to knock my Hermes socks off.”
Thus far, Hodgegrass has met with about a dozen Hamptons artists, but he has yet to find the right match. People close to Hodgegrass say the artists he’s met have been badmouthing each other and doing whatever they can to land this whale of a commission. “Derwood is not a fan of subterfuge or dishonesty,” a friend said. “Men of great means, guys like him, have to deal with that stuff their entire lives. That’s not what this portrait is about.”
If he doesn’t find an artist soon, Hodgegrass said he may have a unique solution. “Maybe I have to create a self portrait this time,” he said. “I have the means, the intelligence and the eye to become an artist—I’m just not sure I have the hand.”
While Hodgegrass contemplates focusing his energies on an art career, he is still accepting proposals and taking meetings with the local talent. “Any artist with the interest and talent to paint my portrait can drop by Hodgegrass Mansion this week or contact me via Facebook,” he said, noting that he’s just getting “acquainted” with the world of social media.