Detroit Art: A Tangled Web of Illicit Dealings

How did the tangled weavings really begin? Can we ever really know? We can choose a thread and begin to unravel it.
Perhaps it started with Ian Hornak, the beautiful gay artist with luscious blond hair and equally florid paintings; who is credited with being one of the founders of the Hyperrealist and Photorealist fine art movements.

Artist Ian Hornak at Work

During a visit to his house for an interview, the writer thus described the interior: “Formidably flamboyant paintings blazed from the dark walls: a vase of riotously unsettling flowers, a portrait of a preening macaw, a bowl of demented-looking tulips. Combined with some chaotically gesturing potted plants and his two pet parrots, they deepened the exotic spell, evoking a kind of wild kingdom.”¹

Hornak’s partner was Julius Rosenthal Wolf, the vice president of General Amusement Corporation, which was at one time the second largest talent management agency in the world. When Wolf died on June 11, 1976, John G. Heimann, who was Comptroller of the Currency under President Jimmy Carter, served as executor of Wolf’s estate.²

Hornak palled around with many of the famous avant-garde art crowd.  He was friends with Andy Warhol.

 

Ian Hornak foreground, Andy Warhol background

 

Robert Mapplethorpe was also part of this crowd. Mapplethorpe has been tied by multiple sources to the “Son of Sam” serial killer David Berkowitz, The Process Church, and the unsolved murder of photographer Ronald Sisman. A convicted banker robber, Jesse Turner, who had once lived with Mapplethorpe, told author Maury Terry that Mapplethorpe had asked him to arrange the killing of Ronald Sisman, who had a snuff film of one of the Son of Sam murders.³ Mapplethorpe’s lovers included Jack Fritscher, ex-priest and exorcist, who served on the board of directors of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA)4 and Sam Wagstaff, curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).5

In 1974 DIA Director Fred Cummings, said of Hornak’s art: “The exotic landscapes he began to paint were evocations of a world partly inside the mind but also with a very real existence outside…I was deeply interested in the implications of these paintings.”6

 

Ian Hornak. Sorcerer Series: Beast Head, Spider Web, Photorealism, circle of Chuck Close 1969

 

 

Photorealist painter Ian Hornak photographed in his studio on March 11, 1971. (Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)

 

 

Ian Hornak. Sorcerer Series: Floating Women and children, 1969.

 

Indeed.

DIA Director Fred Cummings came to the institute in 1964, receiving recommendations from Ellis Waterhouse, an English art historian and lifelong friend of Anthony Blunt, who was Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, a specialist in Poussin, buggerer of boys and an accused murderer.7,8

Anthony Blunt. “Poussin has always remained my first love.”

 

Cummings appreciated the talent that Larry Fleischman, president of the Arts Commission, had in procuring paintings. It was Fleischman who acquired the painting “The Nightmare,” by Henry Fuseli. He managed to acquire it with local businessman Bert Smokler for very little.9   Sigmund Freud had a copy in his apartment in Vienna in the 1920s.10

 

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli

 

DIA Director Fred Cummings was described as a man who enjoyed chatting up Fortune 500 moguls and dining with European royalty, and he become increasingly resented by DIA employees for his “Hollywood Connection.” He was accused of running an imperial directorship based on a palace guard of pals in California, dubbed “The Valley Boys.”11

These two “Valley Boy” friends Ron Winokur, an art dealer and former museum employee, and filmmaker Dennis Bogorad, moved to Los Angeles, California in 1978. Winokur, described as brilliant with a wicked sense of humor, could well work the wheels of the art world. When offered a collection of nineteenth century French paintings he sent a client to Christie’s Auction House, where he received twenty times what he was originally asking.12At the DIA he was under scrutiny for his purchase of a sculpture by Paul Manship, “The Moods of Time: Evening” for Mrs Allen Shelden 3rd, effectively undercutting the then museum’s curator of modern art, Jay Bellioli, because he was replaced with Winokur by Cummings. Winokur would not disclose how much he received as a finder’s fee for the piece. Bogorad also undercut another employee under DIA contract, Hermann Tauchert, to do an educational film that was to accompany a museum exhibition called “From a Mighty Fortress: Prints and Drawings from the Veste Coburg Collection.” Tauchert’s budget called for $60,000, while the ten minute film by Bogorad cost around $90,000.13

Eventually there was a state senate committee that looked into the way the museum and the city were handling public funds. The city held up funds going to the Founders Society (a group of wealthy DIA benefactors) waiting on conditions of a new contract stipulating exact administrative procedures the society was to follow. State Senator Jack Faxon, composer of the bill establishing the Michigan Council for the Arts and supporter of Fred Cummings chastised the city of Detroit stating that, “If the city is going to try to exact these kinds of conditions in order to gain a contractual relationship to their satisfaction they might expect the state to do the same to the city.”14

Senator Jack Faxon was an artist and avid art collector.  After he died his collection came up for auction at Du Mouchelles.15  Faxon was also under scrutiny during the Oakland County Child Killer (OCCK) investigation. He was friends with Kent Shultz, a man who wound up serving three 20-40 year sentences for multiple Child Sexual Conduct-1 (CSC-1, child rape). He was also friends with Frances Shelden, owner of North Fox Island, who was also wanted for questioning pertaining to the OCCK, and who escaped to the Netherlands. The North Fox Island client list was heavily redacted. Faxon may have been on it. Faxon was never questioned by the FBI.16,17

Sources Cited:

1) Patsy Southgate, Ian Hornak: Creating an Art Apart, The East Hampton Star, https://easthamptonstar.com/Archive/1/Ian-Hornak-Creating-Art-Apart.

2) Julius Rosenthal Wolf, Wikipedia/WordDisk, https://worddisk.com/wiki/Julius Rosenthal Wolf/.

3) Torchy Blane, Robert Mapplethorpe: Promoting Cultural Degeneracy, Weaponizing Modern Art, The Renegade Tribune, https://www.renegadetribune.com/robert-mapplethorpe-promoting-cultural-degeneracy-weaponizing-modern-art/.

4) Jack Fritscher, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Fritscher.

5) Deborah Solomon, ‘Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe,’ by Philip Gefter, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/07/books/review/wagstaff-before-and-after-mapplethorpe-by-philip-gefter.html.

6) Ian Hornak: definition of Ian_Hornak and synonyms of Ian_Hornak (English), https://dictionary.sensagent.com/Ian_Hornak/en-en.

7) Ellis Waterhouse, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellis_Waterhouse.

8) JIMMY SAVILE; ROTHSCHILD; ANTHONY BLUNT; MI5, Aangirfan, https://aangirfan.blogspot.com/2012/10/jimmy-savile-rothschild-anthony-blunt.html

9) Oral history interview with Frederick James Cummings, 1982 July 22, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, https://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-frederick-james-cummings-12572.

10) Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781, https://www.dia.org/art/collection/object/nightmare-45573.

11) Michael Brenson, Troubles at the Detroit Museum Raise a Plethora of Issues, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/1983/10/23/arts/troubles-at-the-detroit-museum-raise-a-plethora-of-issues.html.

12) Ron Winokur d.2/25/2006 in Los Angeles, Tribes of the Cass Corridor & Forum, http://corridortribe.com/obits/ron_winokur.htm.

13) Brenson, Troubles at the Detroit Museum.

14) Ibid.

15) DuMouchelles, Press Releases, https://www.dumoart.com/PressReleases.

16) Narrative Police Report, Detective Cory Williams. https://catherinebroad.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/ex-michigan-senator-jack-faxon.pdf.

17) Catherine Broad, Ex-Michigan Senator Jack Faxon, What the Hell is the Deal with the Oakland County Child Killer Investigation? https://catherinebroad.blog/2020/08/24/ex-michigan-senator-jack-faxon/.

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