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friend of convicted art fraudster Inigo Philbrick spills the beans in new memoir

In May 2022, the young, charismatic art dealer Inigo Philbrick was sentenced to seven years in a US jail for defrauding his clients: a labyrinthine scheme involving overselling shares in artworks, consigning artworks as collateral without their owners’ knowledge, and falsifying documents. All That Glitters is Orlando Whitfield’s account of his friendship with Philbrick—from their time at Goldsmiths, University of London (Whitfield graduated in 2009), through early joint attempts to establish themselves as art dealers, then working for the Jay Jopling-backed gallery Modern Collections, in Mayfair—before parting ways as Philbrick’s success soared. So close were they that the friends joked about writing each other’s biographies.

Here Whitfield presents not just his own but Philbrick’s as well, piecing into the narrative swathes of material from email correspondence Philbrick allegedly sent him while on the run in Vanuatu in the South Pacific. When Whitfield comes to address Philbrick’s criminal activity directly, he states that “I was no longer working for Inigo when the majority of these deals went down”—he has not been accused of any wrongdoing himself—and that much information remains hidden, like “a jigsaw big enough to cover a football pitch [with] half the pieces missing”.

Shamefully duped

In trying to piece together the jigsaw, Whitfield still carries a fresh wound from the realisation that he “was taken in … shamefully duped” by Philbrick, the pain of which suffuses this retrospective attempt to understand the motives of his friend of 15 years, and fuels the disdain and disgust with which he describes the art market and the machinations of its populace, particularly those at the top. Whitfield peppers his recollections with some wonderfully observed visual detail—a dozing security guard holds his cheek “like a clam in its shell”—yet withering reductions of the wealthy, such as “some feckless item of minor European aristocracy”, eventually outweigh these light witticisms. He declares that Philbrick is not just a rotten apple, but that “the barrel itself is rotting”: the words of someone thoroughly done with the whole business.

Readers drawn to the book’s promise of an insider’s recollections of the art-dealing ecosystem will not be disappointed

There is a cathartic feel to Whitfield’s untrammelled vitriol, and readers drawn to the book’s promise of an insider’s recollections of such machinations and the idiosyncratic social behaviours of the art-dealing ecosystem will not be disappointed. We learn that leaving artworks for sale on foam blocks leaning against the gallery wall gives the prospective client the impression that the work is so fresh that they are among the first to see it. The exhibitions mounted by such galleries as Modern Collections—and Whitfield as its exhibition manager—were in effect redundant, as the vast majority of works had been sold in advance long before. There are several set pieces dramatising the pair’s escapades in vivid, film-ready sequences, such as their first deal in a Lisbon hotel room involving a funny Portuguese dealer, a Paula Rego drawing packed in a jigsaw puzzle folder and a literal wad of cash, or two attempts to remove supposed Banksys from London walls, each thwarted by someone who got there first.

The queasy issue with these undeniably thrilling narratives is the intertwining of Whitfield’s personal recollection with dramatised accounts of whole conversations and events to which he was not party—all delivered by omniscient narration. The book’s reverse cover quote—“Deception can be a fine art”—laments the bending of truth, or outright untruths, that he and dealers all around him employed to further themselves: the most extreme, of course, being fraud, which landed Philbrick in jail. The seamless blending of Whitfield’s own recollections with those of Philbrick, related second hand, threatens to undermine the credibility of both by association. With this in mind, it is noticeable that the so-called first Banksy is described with scant detail, the second with minute precision as to its exact location and subsequent history.


In a similar vein, the book both condemns and perpetuates the myth and aura surrounding Philbrick and the art market. Endless attention is given to the glittering lifestyle Philbrick increasingly enjoyed with simultaneous awe and disdain at its sheer excess. A counterpoint is Whitfield’s genuine love of contemporary art on a spiritual and emotional level, resulting in moral conflict when it is reduced to commodity. This conflict colours an account that is both cathartic and an urgent call for regulation of art financing.

Despite this, by writing this account, Whitfield is commodifying his story and his friend’s—Philbrick’s fraud is inarguably its central selling point, the more so since his early release from prison was revealed to the world last month—an irony not lost on the author.

• All That Glitters: A Story of Friendship, Fraud and Fine Art, by Orlando Whitfield, published by Profile Books, 336pp, £20 (hb), 2 May

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