Monster of Art's entourage, which includes Europeans, Europhiles, assorted socialites from as far north as Palm Beach, and those who claim nobility, call her a genius and pay special tribute to her beauty and wit. (She refers to herself as a monster because I am the best of the best. My father always told me I was the incarnation of Leonardo.)
Chief among the circle of admirers is Anastasia's Norwegian manager and housemate, Sir Roy von Hansen. The six-foot-six former Alpine skier with long golden locks says he's a Knight of Malta, though the 29-year-old was dubbed by a bogus prince whose exploits have been recounted in this paper (Diplomatic Impunity, July 24, 1997). But more on his titles later. Hansen wears dark sunglasses at night when he accompanies Anastasia; the two complement each other in a ghoulish kind of way, she with her raven-haired Elvira-inspired look, he her pallid counterpart. Hansen handles Monster of Art's day-to-day affairs. More important though, he does the networking at high-society charity events and in South Beach nightclubs that sets the stage for the maestra, as Hansen calls her, to charm her audience. Hansen lines up prospective buyers of Anastasia's art. We produce few pieces and at a very personal level, Hansen says. The list includes names (again also printed in promos) of suitably impressive clients; customers include the deceased King Hussein of Jordan and the Vatican. Lately they've been courting City of Miami Beach officials, trying to interest them in monstrous sculptures for public spaces, though the city is turning out to be a tougher sale.
The couple's professional arrangement is unheard of in the art world, says Helen Kohen, a former art critic for the Miami Herald, of the match made in Heaven or Hell. She has an in-house promoter; that's rare, Kohen says. In the art world there are agents and dealers. Manager is a word usually applied to a prize fighter. Together Anastasia and Hansen have woven in members of Miami's monied elite known for their philanthropy, not necessarily their status as serious contemporary art collectors. They've also attracted an equally artistically backward, though much younger, VIP-room jet set.
Michael Capponi, owner of 320, a new nightclub that will open in October near Lincoln Road Mall, where Bar Room used to be, has just closed a deal with Hansen and Anastasia. The former skateboarder, who's been living in Miami since 1978, has chosen Anastasia to design the club's logos and paint the walls of an upstairs VIP area to be called the Anastasia Room. I think she does great work, Capponi says, cell phone in hand. She's Miami's greatest artist, and I want to give her an Anastasia room.
But while Anastasia's lifestyle revolves around a very in and now crowd, she says her muse remains grounded in the old world. In fact Michelangelo, who along with da Vinci comes up in conversation often, visits Monster of Art in her dreams. I dream all my ideas, Anastasia explains. When I wake up in the morning, I write my ideas. I dream everything. In my dreams I meet with Leonardo, Dali, Michelangelo. According to a glossy brochure, Anastasia has invented the style New Renaissance. Impossible, says Kohen. In art you can only invent a technique. It seems like she's invented a new style of creating an atmosphere of celebrity and then fitting herself in. The art world doesn't even blink at this.
In the foyer of Carlo Amato's Grove Isle condominium, Ermias Sahle-Selassie, the grandson of Halie Selassie (the late Ethiopian emperor whom Rastafarians believe was the incarnation of the black Messiah) sits at the dining-room table, chain-smokes Marlboro Lights, and talks about being in exile since the age of fourteen. Selassie awards young Ethiopians scholarships to study in the United States through an organization he named after his late grandfather. Amato, an Italian native who also holds a dubious knighthood, says he hunts leopards and elephants in Africa and has tusks arching over a couch in his study to prove it. He's helping Selassie with the organization.
He is the proud owner of two Anastasia originals and has hooked up Monster of Art and Hansen with Selassie. They plan to auction off a painting, and most of the proceeds will go to Selassie's scholarship fund. Anastasia is reachable, Amato says. She does what you see; you don't have to guess. I like to know what I am seeing. She's a rather unusual person, but most artists are, he offers. Not that he praises all her talents equally. Now the Jaguar thing is not my cup of tea, he says. She said she'd do it to my car and I said, Please no. Do something else.' I would not like to meet these people who have this done to their cars, but somebody will go for it. She's able to charm people into making them feel what she wants to express. It's part of the game; she has a group of followers.