It’s been no secret that Philippines real estate scion, Robbie Antonio, has been looking for press for some time. This month Vanity Fair obliges. Despite the many opportunities for Antonio to come off looking like, well, what you would expect from an art-name chasing enthusiast, Antonio comes off winning everyones almost-grudging respect:
“His enthusiasm for all kinds of things is endearing—he kind of pulls you into his orbit,” says painter David Salle, who did a double portrait of Antonio next to Stealth, putting the lord alongside his manor, an updated riff on the Gainsboroughs and Sargents of old.
The Los Angeles-based painter Kenny Scharf portrayed Antonio as “a chic space alien,” complete with antennae. “We had dinner, I took his picture, and we talked a lot,” says Scharf of getting to know Antonio. “He wanted it immediately, and I told him he couldn’t have it immediately. He was very impatient.
“He’s a good-looking guy, and he obviously likes that part about himself.”
One thing that has helped persuade the artists to participate—beyond the $50,000 to $100,000 that Antonio is paying for each piece—is that he has done his homework. Photographer David LaChapelle recalls that, when Antonio showed up for their first meeting in Los Angeles, “he had a book of mine with literally thousands of Post-it notes.” Two months later, LaChapelle photographed Antonio against a flamboyant “millionaire’s pinball machine” backdrop.
LaChapelle takes pains to put the Obsession series in perspective. “The tradition of wealthy people wanting portraits of themselves goes back as far as art history,” he says. “It’s very easy for people to criticize him, but the more art, the better. It will be up to him to have a well-rounded project and not just a vanity project. And the collection will set him apart.”
The reaction at home has been a little less forgiving:
Columnist Rigoberto Tiglao said that what seems to be Antonio’s vanity project “would make Imelda (Marcos’) collection of shoes seem so pedestrian.”
The Museum of Me (Vanity Fair)
Jeers Thrown at Filipino Billionaire Robbie Antonio’s Museum of Me (PhilStar.com)