Astonishing snaps show NYC’s fanciest penthouses taken by artist who pretended to be a billionaire  


A Budapest artist posed as an ultra-wealthy property buyer to snap photos inside 25 of New York City’s most lavish penthouses.

Andi Schmied might be an architect, but she posed as a wealthy Hungarian and potential real-estate buyer to have agents show her the luxury apartments.

The result of Schmied’s project is a selective and crafted window into the vistas only New York’s most wealthy have access to.

Schmied, whose journey capturing the magical landscapes as part of her artist residency at Dumbo’s Triangle Arts Association, told Curbed she was inspired after spotting a few buildings as tall as the Empire State after a visit to the famous landmark.

‘I was very quick to realize that those buildings are all luxury residential high rises. And I started to think, I don’t have too many choices — how do I get up there?’ she told the outlet.

Schmied’s journey capturing the magical landscapes were part of her artist residency at Dumbo’s Triangle Arts Association. Northern view of the Empire State Building and western view of the Hudson River from one of the upper floor staged living rooms at Cetra Ruddy’s One Madison

'There was one agent who asked me to sit down and close my eyes — it was in the Ritz-Carlton Residences on Central Park South — and the curtains were closed, and she asked me if I like Édith Piaf. An unusual question, but I said, 'Of course,' and I asked, 'How do you know?' and she said, 'Oh, because of your European sophistication,'' she recounts about one particular exchange

‘There was one agent who asked me to sit down and close my eyes — it was in the Ritz-Carlton Residences on Central Park South — and the curtains were closed, and she asked me if I like Édith Piaf. An unusual question, but I said, ‘Of course,’ and I asked, ‘How do you know?’ and she said, ‘Oh, because of your European sophistication,” she recounts about one particular exchange

Andi Schmied might be an architect, but she posed as a wealthy Hungarian and potential real-estate buyer to have agents show her the most luxurious penthouse apartments in Manhattan. This unit, facing central park, wasn't completed during her visit, with its walls and floors unfinished

Andi Schmied might be an architect, but she posed as a wealthy Hungarian and potential real-estate buyer to have agents show her the most luxurious penthouse apartments in Manhattan. This unit, facing central park, wasn’t completed during her visit, with its walls and floors unfinished 

Schmied then decided that pretending to be a billionaire interested in buying the properties was the sole way of having access to them. Her persona, Gabriella Schmied, was born.

To make the story believable, Schmied used the name of one of her friends – an antiquarian and a gallerist- as her husband.

‘He wouldn’t be able to afford those apartments but he has professional websites that somehow put him in this sphere of ‘well …’ she said.

Real-estate agents would casually ask Schmied questions to determine she had the means to afford the luxurious apartments such as who was the designer of her clothes and jewelry, or if she and her ‘husband’ had a private chef.

Schmied even came up with a fake assistant – Coco – and spent her ‘entire’ budget on her wardrobe that added credibility to the story.

The artist would then ask ‘Can I take some pictures for my husband?’ and when suspicious agents asked why she was using a film camera instead of a digital one, she replied that it was a special gift from her grandfather to ‘record all the special moments in [her] life.’

Schmied, however, remained unimpressed by the all-too-similar penthouses and weary of the agents' compulsive designer name-drops. She said: 'They are all the same! I mean, really! For example, the layout of the apartments are essentially identical

Schmied, however, remained unimpressed by the all-too-similar penthouses and weary of the agents’ compulsive designer name-drops. She said: ‘They are all the same! I mean, really! For example, the layout of the apartments are essentially identical

Real-estate agents would casually ask Schmied questions to determine she had the means to afford the luxurious apartments such as who was the designer of her clothes and jewelry, or if she and her 'husband' had a private chef. View of the Met Life Tower from one of the upper floor living rooms at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates’ Madison Square Park Towe

Real-estate agents would casually ask Schmied questions to determine she had the means to afford the luxurious apartments such as who was the designer of her clothes and jewelry, or if she and her ‘husband’ had a private chef. View of the Met Life Tower from one of the upper floor living rooms at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates’ Madison Square Park Towe

Schmied even came up with a fake assistant - Coco -, and spent her 'entire' budget on her wardrobe that added credibility to the story

Schmied even came up with a fake assistant – Coco -, and spent her ‘entire’ budget on her wardrobe that added credibility to the story

The artist would then ask 'Can I take some pictures for my husband?' Southern and western views from one of the bedrooms at Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Avenue

The artist would then ask ‘Can I take some pictures for my husband?’ Southern and western views from one of the bedrooms at Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Avenue

‘And they’d just put me in this box of ‘artsy billionaire,’ and would start to talk to me about MoMA’s latest collection. So anything goes,’ she said.

Other agents fell for her story without raising questions and used ‘almost theatrical scenes’ in an attempt to sell the penthouses.

‘There was one agent who asked me to sit down and close my eyes — it was in the Ritz-Carlton Residences on Central Park South — and the curtains were closed, and she asked me if I like Édith Piaf. An unusual question, but I said, ‘Of course,’ and I asked, ‘How do you know?’ and she said, ‘Oh, because of your European sophistication,” she recounts about one particular exchange.

‘And she sat me down and put on Édith Piaf. And meanwhile, I was sitting there with my closed eyes, and she opened the curtains and there was Central Park in front of me, and she had this line: ‘Just imagine — you could do this every day,’ she added.

Western view from a bathroom from one of the staged apartments at Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Avenue

Western view from a bathroom from one of the staged apartments at Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Avenue

'...After a while, what I observed was the most comfortable for me, within the context of being a nonexistent person, was to say as much truth as possible. I'd say my honest opinion if I didn't like an apartment, or if I was really genuinely asking things I was interested about,' Schmied recalled of the experience

‘…After a while, what I observed was the most comfortable for me, within the context of being a nonexistent person, was to say as much truth as possible. I’d say my honest opinion if I didn’t like an apartment, or if I was really genuinely asking things I was interested about,’ Schmied recalled of the experience

For now, Schmied said, she's ready to abandon her persona. 'After the book is out, she's going to be banned from the real estate agents, but in one thing or another, I use her regularly — if I have to call my phone company, say,' she said

For now, Schmied said, she’s ready to abandon her persona. ‘After the book is out, she’s going to be banned from the real estate agents, but in one thing or another, I use her regularly — if I have to call my phone company, say,’ she said

Another agent sat Schmied down and told her that she should imagine the smell of her favorite food going through the apartment.

‘Maybe a goulash,’ the agent said, according to Schmied, seizing on the knowledge that she was Hungarian.

Schmied, however, remained unimpressed by the all-too-similar penthouses and weary of the agents’ compulsive designer name-drops.

She said: ‘They are all the same! I mean, really! For example, the layout of the apartments are essentially identical.

‘Then there’s the countertop, which usually a kitchen island in the middle, and there’s different types of marble but there’s marble — Calacatta Tucci, or Noir St. Laurent, or Chinchilla Mink, and they always tell you, ‘It’s the best of the best,’ from a hidden corner of the planet where they hand-selected the most incredible pieces.

For now, Schmied said, she’s ready to abandon her persona.

‘…After a while, what I observed was the most comfortable for me, within the context of being a nonexistent person, was to say as much truth as possible. I’d say my honest opinion if I didn’t like an apartment, or if I was really genuinely asking things I was interested about,’ Schmied recalled of the experience.

‘After the book is out, she’s going to be banned from the real estate agents, but in one thing or another, I use her regularly — if I have to call my phone company, say,’ she concluded.

Schmied’s book Private Views: A High-Rise Panorama of Manhattan was published in 2020. Only 1000 editions were published. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk