Four Courtroom Outfits of Anna Delvey presents a single new work from Cynthia Talmadge. A five-panelled painted dressing screen tosses up items of clothing reported to have been worn by Anna Vadimovna Sorokina during the court appearances preceding her imprisonment at Rikers Island in spring 2019. Inventing the fictitious identity of German heiress “Anna Delvey” enabled 28 year old Russian-born Anna Vadimovna Sorokina who moved to New York City in 2013 to con her way to socialite status, rubbing shoulders with wealthy friends for four years until the impressive charade collapsed in a pile of personal debts, fictional arts organisations, and unpaid five-star hotel bills.
By extending a lineage of celebrity women in US courtrooms including Lindsay Lohan, Elizabeth Holmes, Cardi B, Winona Ryder, and Martha Stewart, whose clothing has come under heavy scrutiny, Talmadge interrogates the media representation and sentencing of women accused of financial crimes. Sorokina maintained her character consistently throughout her stay in jail during her trial, hiring a professional stylist to dress her, pro bono, in her/Delvey’s favourite designers and constantly throwing tantrums about the stylist’s unsatisfactory choices.
Talmadge embellishes her dressing screen for Delvey with invented heraldry: her American Express cards, a room service cloche, unpaid restaurant cheques, hotel minibar bottles, a shopping bag, a flag with the crest from her home town, the New York County Criminal Court building in Manhattan where her trial took place, a subpoena and hotel slippers. One bearing includes a matchbook from La Mamounia hotel in Marrakech where she was unable to pay a $65,000 bill. In describing a private space in which a public identity is actively constructed and continually reconstructed, this work develops Talmadge’s ongoing interest in the interplay between the performance and experience of emotion. As a stylist-mediated, outward expression of Delvey/Sorokina’s psyche, the clothes fly upwards in an endless cycle, reinvigorating an early animation trope used to describe a quick costume change or sartorial indecision. These courtroom outfits, presented in an infinite loop of ‘hysterical’ indecision, represent the closest we can get to her inner reality.
It’s not difficult to imagine Delvey successfully continuing her deceit as her claims of wealth and influence conjure themselves into being. Worse liars have risen to greater prominence, after all. Delvey was eventually fined $24,000, ordered to pay restitution of $200,000 and will serve four to twelve years in the Bedford Hills State Correctional Facility for Women for Grand Larceny and Theft of Services. Many of those linked to Delvey have attempted to capitalise from her crimes. Her stylist maintains an instagram account devoted to her courtroom looks while those she scammed seek book deals from rapacious publishers. The scandal surrounding Sorokina’s infectious, obsessive grifting, self-promotion, and self-production have spread contagiously, and we all find ourselves eager for a slice.