Back in 2014 I made rash decision to invest in an original artwork called ‘KATE’ by Korean artist Minjae Lee who also goes by the alias of GrenoMJ.
The KATE in question is Kate Moss, an English model born in Croydon, Greater London. Here’s my story of the last six years with and without KATE.
It all started in October (2013) when a friend from London, now living and working in LA arrived in Bangkok. Katae and I joined him and some other friends he was traveling with for dinner on two consecutive evenings before they all headed over to a film premier in Vietnam.
One of the dinner guests turned out to be another guy from the UK, Southampton to be precise who went by the name of Ryan Roth. As it turns out he was also know as Ryan Flynn.
I found out later, he met my friend in LA at a Brits in Hollywood breakfast, he didn’t know him that well at all, he was just orbiting his network.
Ryan befriended me and we met up maybe half a dozen times with others for drinks and dinner over the next couple of months.
I only recall going out once together to a Japanese restaurant in Bangkok where he was over eager to school me on his knowledge of sushi. I remember it only because the restaurant had porn magazines laying around it and he started telling me stories of his escapades with the ladies. I marked him down as another sex pest in Asia.
Around this time I was looking to move some funds out of a company I had in the UK before closing it down to offset my tax liabilities. After all, tax is theft and if you can legally avoid it, you have a duty to yourself to hang on to your own hard earned dosh.
Ryan had spoken about his company Roth Management and the artists he represented. Not knowing anything about the art world, I thought it would be a good idea to invest in an original piece and so I purchased KATE 2008 (Acrylic on canvas) for $10,000. What a fool was I?
My idea was to hold KATE for a year or so, then sell her and reinvest my stake in something that made more sense to me.
Katae and I moved out of Bangkok to live on Koh Chang so after the new year I probably never saw Ryan again but that didn’t stop him from calling and emailing me about his latest investment opportunities.
Rereading his emails before writing this story, it’s astounding how many schemes he tried to get me interested in:
- Invest in another artists work
- a friend of friends travel company
- an artificial reef foundation
- something called Vagabond World
- website art projects
- a sonic toothbrush that kills all bacteria
- create a company, the sells limited edition, extremely high end, one off products
- a proposal to merge his company with mine
- artist residency program
There were countless other hair-brained schemes he pitched over the phone too. He had the answer to world poverty, an ethical drinks company and on and on he would go.
KATE in LA
All this time I was told KATE was hung in the LA home of Southampton trance producer and DJ (and I’m guessing, old school friend). Let’s call him *Gary for the sake of this story. He was supposed to take a photo of KATE in situ at his property, but it was never forthcoming.
He would often say he was going to visit us at our island home and would ask me to find him a room on Koh Chang for 300 Baht a night. I thought for the high roller he professed to be, he was a cheap Charlie. I told him he’s have to stay in 1990 get those rates!
So, a year went by and I decided to reach out to Ryan to ask him to sell KATE. Where before he was hammering me with emails and calls, he suddenly went quite.
It would take repeated outreach on my part and weeks before I heard anything back from him. And then it was usually just lame excuses about KATE not selling or criticizing me for the tone of my direct emails.
Does KATE Exist?
So, by now I’m totally aware the guy is full of shit and potentially KATE didn’t really exist.
He then suggested he hand over the sales duties to Gary’s wife. Let’s call her *Kay for the sake of this story. Kay is the owner of an LA (and now a Miami) art gallery. I thought I had nothing to loose as he was flaky on sales. Kay checked out and the gallery was real, so we agreed she would display and sell KATE.
So at the beginning of 2016 Kay agreed to sell KATE for $16,000 or take a serious offer and bag a 20% commission for doing so. If a sale happened, I’d make a small return on my initial investment and forget about the last 12 months of having the runaround with Ryan.
After dipping my toe into the art world, I could shake it of and head back to the safety of the shore… or so I thought!
Now I’ve never had the displeasure of having worked with art gallery owners before, but all I can say is, if I treated my clients with indifference, the way Kay treated me, I would be out of business and deservedly so.
Months would roll by with no word from her, emails would go unanswered for even more months and eventually years.
Then in January this year everything changed. I sent her an email with a link to the Daily Mail Online and a simple message “Do you know about this?”
It turns out that Ryan Roth was wanted for serial fraud in Australia and other countries. He made headlines around the world for either committing suicide of faking his own death in Bali.
Of course, true to form, I received no reply from Kay so I followed up a day later with another email…
“Just reading this email thread dating from the start of January 2016.
I must say if I was unresponsive to clients valid questions and queries, I’d be out of business. I find your lack of communication extremely unprofessional.
With the current situation coming to light of Ryan Roth being a serial scammer and confirming my thoughts about him, I wonder where that leaves KATE and you in the story? Are you an unwitting victim or accomplice? Does KATE even exist?
Here’s what is going to happen in the next 24 hours:
- You need to prove that you have possession on the artwork KATE by Minjae Lee. Email me a photo of the artwork with today’s cover of the LA Times so I can clearly see the date and headline.
- If you have sold the artwork (your suggested price was $16,000) you need to provide a receipt and payment to me minus your 20% commission.
- If, KATE exists, you haven’t sold it and it is in your possession, lets arrange immediate, secure and insured delivery to my home address in Thailand.
Failure to respond fully as outlined above, or not at all will leave me with the only option to contact the press who are already looking for stories about RR. I’ll let a journalist uncover the connections between you, Gary and Ryan. This is not my preferred option but this whole experience with Ryan and you/your gallery has been nothing short of shady and very stressful for me.
The ball is in your court, what happens next is up to you.
Hopefully it can be a positive outcome for us both, so we can move on.
Looking forward to hearing from you.”
Well that did the trick, a day later I received a response…
“As stated at several points we have had no interest in someone wanting to buy this piece and as also stated I am happy to have the piece professionally packed ready for you to be picked up by a shipper of your choice.
Ryan Roth is no affiliation to me or the gallery.
Please let me know if you would like the piece packaged for shipment and I will send along details of the package so you can liaise with your shipper.”
KATE is the Real Deal
On Feb 5th after emailing Kay many more times I finally got a little video clearly showing the date of the LA Times and KATE in all her glory. She exists!!!!!
Within days was she was crated up into a 63 x 8 x 44 inch box in Van Nuys and awaited to be spirited away to join me in Asia.
After finding out shipping KATE out to Thailand would cost me in the region of $8,000, I reached out to some friends in LA and one graciously took KATE in for me and will keep her secure.
So now KATE is safe and sound, I don’t have to deal with an art dealer with communication issues, and the real life Walter Mitty, AKA Ryan Ross is still missing in action.
Lessons learned and a note to self – don’t invest in things you don’t understand or deal with fuckwits, life is too short!
KATE For Sale
For those who are interested in buying affordable art in Los Angeles, KATE is for sale at $16,000.
Buyer pays for delivery.
If you are in LA, I can recommend a great courier in Beverly Hills.
Serious offers on this contemporary art can email me here.
*Names have been changed.
Where Art Thou KATE?