Nightmare on Ocean Drive

Welcome to the world of Anastasia Monster of Art, where low art and the high life meet in an orgy of self-glorified kitsch

The glasses Dolores speaks of are just one more of the multitasking Anastasia's inventions, one that another supporter has literally bought into. He is Clayton Umbel, a former partner of a steel mill in New Jersey who is now an insurance consultant. He loves Anastasia's glasses so much he's starting a company that will mass-produce them. “I said, “We can do something with this!'” Umbel exclaims. The company will be called Smart Art, Inc. Already, Umbel says, nine shareholders are involved in the venture. In October Anastasia, Hansen, and Umbel will go to Hong Kong to kick off the manufacturing of her glasses. Umbel and his wife, Lisa, own half a dozen Anastasia creations, from paintings to sculptures. “I've collected her art because she's one of those gifted people who seems to say the right thing at the right time,” Umbel says. “She is certainly one of those people connected to the light.”

Gloria Hollis, a Palm Beach socialite and actress who says she volunteers for a whopping 265 charities, has an Anastasia portrait of herself hanging in her home. It was a gift, she says. Anastasia covered the 30 by 42-inch plaster-based board with 24-karat gold leaf. “She sees me as a leopard, so my face, my whole body, is like a cat woman,” Hollis explains. “It's very Gothic.” Anastasia and Hansen sit on committees for two organizations with which Hollis is involved.

Sylvia Fragos, who works in real estate, organized an exhibition for Anastasia on Williams Island in January. More than 500 people attended the Sunday penthouse brunch, Fragos says, and Monster of Art sold six pieces and was commissioned to paint three portraits. Fragos says the works sold ranged from $5000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Her work is very different from the run-of-the-mill artist of the day; it's very personal,” Fragos explains. In March, during a Cystic Fibrosis Foundation charity event, Fragos organized a fashion show and art ball for Anastasia held at the Williams Island Ocean Club. Anastasia painted live. The piece was auctioned off for about $3000. “She's a very exciting individual,” Fragos asserts. “I'm just in awe of her.”

South Beach denizen Gerry Kelly loves a good show
Jennie Zeiner
South Beach denizen Gerry Kelly loves a good show
The Design District's Vittorio Viglianesi owns several Anastasias, though he's most attracted to her Gothic creations
Jennie Zeiner
The Design District's Vittorio Viglianesi owns several Anastasias, though he's most attracted to her Gothic creations

Monster of Art seems to focus on three themes in her paintings: Medusas, mermaids, and madonnas. She throws into the mix dragons and Roman ruins, but once in a while she tackles more profound topics; for instance she has painted a closeup portrait of an agonizing Jesus nailed to the cross. Her most popular piece, of which she has painted variations that have been bought by lawyers and business executives, she says, is a sepia-tone image of an Old World library full of leather-bound books.

Another huge fan is LeiMarco, a local fashion designer originally from Italy, who designs clothes for Anastasia and has worked on some projects with her. Anastasia hand-paints corsets and has collaborated with LeiMarco on fifteen art and fashion shows. Last month they did a show at B.E.D., the restaurant/club in South Beach where patrons literally eat and drink on mattresses. In October they're planning a private event on Fisher Island. A prince from Pakistan, celebrities from Hollywood, and the sons of Mexico's previous president Ernesto Zedillo will attend, LeiMarco says. “For me Anastasia is the Dali of the millennium,” the 27-year-old opines. “She is a genius. She's my big diva in my shows. When she's onstage she becomes a monster.”

Vittorio Viglianesi, a Design District developer from Italy, has six Anastasias back home in Rome, three in his Palm Island villa, and two more he calls “jokes.” “Now I show you the jokes,” Viglianesi says, briskly walking from his living room to a bedroom, smoking a cigarette. One is a portrait done on a piece of cardboard of Viglianesi's girlfriend, a digital artist from France named Sylvie. “Anastasia did it in an hour one night after dinner as a gift,” he says. “She's very fast.” The other, a bat woman painted on a wall outside, near the pool, Anastasia did one Saturday afternoon when Viglianesi invited her for lunch. “She told me: “I want to make you a gift,' and I said, “I'd like something hard.' I don't have the taste of most businessmen my age,” says the 53-year-old, who owns a Hummer.

One of Anastasia's biggest buyers has been Warren Henry Zinn. The owner of Warren Henry Jaguar declined to give details of his dealings with Anastasia and Hansen, and the artist's manager doesn't discuss business transactions either. Instead Hansen likes to use the words “gift,” “charity,” and “donation.” Hansen says there's a contract, but it's unclear if it binds Zinn to a set number of Anastasia Jags. In June the Miami Herald reported that ten cars were produced in 1999 and another twenty were slated to go on sale in 2000. Big dreams but no cigar. “I don't think the idea was ever for someone to buy the car,” fashion designer Gerry Kelly says. “It's like the designer doing haute couture. We do all these crazy pieces even though we know no one will buy them.” Zinn claims sales have gone up from the various party unveilings. “The car has given us exposure to customers who live in other areas who never knew we were here,” he says.

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