On a discreet corner wall at a small pop-art gallery in New York City’s Lower East Side, down a narrow hallway packed with people (a woman in fishnets, a man with cigarettes pierced through his lobes), many of them smoking (tobacco, weed), hung five of con artist Anna Sorokin’s drawings. But it was the first drawing—snug above a couch with loungers sipping canned Modelo beer—that first caught my attention. I’d seen the simple pencil sketch of a lone woman on a raft of ice before…right here in Cosmopolitan magazine.
Better known by her preferred name Anna Delvey, the fake German heiress whose cons were recently dramatized in the Netflix series Inventing Anna had sent me the political sketch titled “Anna on ICE,” referencing her current detention by U.S. immigration officials, while I was working on a story about her for Cosmo.
As a crime reporter, I had followed her case—and her drawings about it—since covering her Manhattan trial and conviction for financial crimes for the New York Times in 2019, and we had met at Rikers several times for interviews during her incarceration. From her cell in Goshen, New York, and without access even to an eraser, Sorokin had drawn Cosmo her first published sketch since being detained by those authorities for overstaying her visa in March 2021.
With limited supplies, she made just one test drawing, completing it in a day: “I was still finishing the shadings when the mail officer called for me to fill out the mailing forms,” Sorokin recalled, adding, “I made her wait a little bit.”
The original ICE sketch now lies on my desk in the priority mail envelope she’d sent to me in February, complete with $26.95 of postage. But I wouldn’t have known the difference between the drawing she made for Cosmo and the larger 22″-by-30″ version framed before me at the pop-up gallery had a man scooting around the exhibition in a chair with wheels and his feet covered only in socks not said to me, slyly: “I recreated the artwork for her.”
“So you forged Anna Delvey?” I clarified.
He raised his arms in a dramatic shrug: “I thought you’d find that funny.”
The man in the wheely chair introduced himself as Alfredo Martinez, and he immediately told me, “Just google my name and it will answer all your questions.” (Upon googling, I found that Martinez is a celebrated artist who himself spent time behind bars in the early 2000s for charges related to earlier forgeries of graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.)
Faced with a man who potentially forged the works of a famous scammer, I did the obvious—I went straight to Anna via text and asked her about the fakes myself.
Initially, she had messaged me about the show’s opening less than 45 minutes before it began: “BTW there is an art show about me tonight—everyone will be there if you feel like stopping by.” She had added: “Lmk how the show goes.” So I texted her about the dupes. She acknowledged the drawings as “pre-authorized forgeries”—i.e., reproductions made by Martinez with Sorokin’s permission—each on sale for $10,000.
Sorokin, who sketched copiously throughout her trial, tended to insert humor into her earlier drawings, poking fun at the legal system that has kept her behind bars for some four years. But the sketch she sent Cosmo was different: There’s a coldness in the drawing that supersedes the icescape. Often, her earlier self-portraits depict her communicating with the outside world—on a jailhouse phone call, messaging through a prison kiosk—but in this one, she was all alone, surrounded by ice, with nothing but books to keep her company.
And despite the real deal sitting in my own apartment, the “pre-authorized forgery” still sold. Martinez’s recreation of “Anna on ICE” was officially purchased on Monday by collector Patrick James Peters III, a partner of Founders Art Club, which is producing Sorokin’s upcoming solo exhibition. Peters, an artist who got COVID-19 in April 2020 and was isolated for months during a difficult recovery, said the solitary drawing resonated with him.
“It just hit me in a way that as a collector I knew I needed to have it,” he said. “Anna is somewhat of an alchemist: able to translate her story from this very negative experience behind bars into a positive one. If you look at how diamonds are formed, there’s an extreme amount of pressure that is applied. I believe that her art is a direct representation of turning a negative into a positive. I’m looking to be a part of that.”
Currently, Sorokin is the only woman detained by ICE at Orange County Correctional Facility in Goshen, New York, she told me. “Every single ICE girl that comes here gets bail and gets out,” she said, adding that she has stayed longer than any other woman she met at the facility. Sorokin, who completed her minimum sentence in February 2021, spent six weeks out from behind bars in Manhattan before immigration authorities detained her again. “It’s harder to rectify my current isolation from society since the New York State Board of Parole decided to release me on merit,” she said, noting the lengthy review process before she was released, “only for ICE to overturn that decision six weeks after my release without noting any apparent changes in my circumstances.” According to ICE, Sorokin overstayed her visa.
Meanwhile, the “pre-authorized forger” Martinez, whose prison art sold out exhibitions in Paris and New York while he was still incarcerated, says he actually wanted to help Anna while she was behind bars…which is why he ultimately reached out to her first to float the idea of “forging” her work. Why do this? Well, the partnership was mutually beneficial because Anna could not mail original drawings that fit specified large gallery dimensions due to the correctional facility’s strict rules. Instead, she and Martinez together selected five of her iconic drawings to replicate from her Instagram page.
Sorokin said she thought the popularity of her sketch of her “ICE adventures” came from people’s interest in her current circumstances, which were only briefly noted at the end of the Netflix series. Unlike criminal charges, people detained by ICE are not provided free legal counsel, and with Netflix-level resources, Sorokin said she was among the few who were able to afford a lawyer. She believes that some immigration lawyers at her ICE center are really scammers pretending to be immigration lawyers “preying on clueless immigrants, especially the ones who don’t speak English,” taking their money and facing no consequences as the victims were simply deported anyway. “Immigration is a whole different/wilder story than criminal, apparently,” she added.
Over the course of her detention, she met a Honduran woman who spoke little English and was trying to regain contact with her child. Sorokin said she called 10 agencies—three times each—from a list of numbers posted on a wall at the facility on behalf of the woman. No one called back. “The main purpose of my sketches is always to capture the moment, and I think the ICE drawing succeeded in that,” Sorokin said. “And if it also ends up bringing awareness to other people’s struggles with immigration, that is definitely a plus.”
Of course, with Anna, even dire circumstances need a little glitz and glamour. She said the whole “ice” for ICE thing is a play on words…upon a play on words: “It’s also a riff on rap lyrics,” Sorokin texted me. “‘Ice’ standing for diamonds lol.”
You know, like Saweetie rapped: “It’s very unlikely my wrist ain’t looking icy / Charging by the minute ’cause my time is very pricey”; Master P: “The ice on my wrist shine like a light / I can brighten up your day even at night.”
Sorokin dashed off a few more example songs, one with lyrics so explicit that she substituted an asterisk for the vowel so the message would still process through the jail’s automated monitoring system.
But perhaps that last one shouldn’t be added to the list, she noted. After all: “We don’t want to make the good Cosmo readers blush.”
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io