There’s a scene in the new Guy Ritchie movie, “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre,” in which Aubrey Plaza’s undercover spy character attempts to distract a lackey of a billionaire arms dealer (Hugh Grant) — by going on and on and on about a painting that’s prominently displayed on the billionaire’s yacht.
The lackey, played by Max Beesley, is impressed by the spy’s knowledge of contemporary art, which she shows off by recognizing the work of the painter Rhed, “with an H.”
It’s a scene that likely flies over the heads of most viewers, but it’s a perfect example of Hollywood nepotism: Rhed, you see, is Rocco Ritchie, the 22-year-old son of the director and music legend Madonna.
And the movie wink is all the more cheeky considering that Rocco first tried to dodge the nepo baby route.
He secretly painted and showed under the name Rhed for two and a half years before Page Six revealed his true identity in December 2021.
“My generation seeks the fastest road to fortune that’s out there, the path of least resistance,” Rocco has said of bucking conventional norms.
But with his paintings selling for around $25,000 a pop, he is on his way to making a fast fortune.
Rocco was signed by international curator and dealer Tanya Baxter when he was just 17 — before he had even started at the prestigious Central St. Martins art school in London — with the gallerist heralding Rhed as a “painter of the 21st century [who] speaks for the millennial generation.”
Baxter, who did not return a request for comment, is known for sourcing works by some of the leading contemporary and post-war artists including Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Jean-Michel Basquiat — a former boyfriend of Madonna and whose work Baxter has compared to Rhed’s.
Each year the art dealer chooses one young artist to mentor, and she has said of Rocco: “He had terrific conviction — he can become a spokesman of his generation.”
He has now had three exhibitions at her Chelsea studio in the heart of one of London’s wealthiest districts.
Once the nepo baby was out of the bag, Rocco and his parents wasted no time using the truth to win new fans.
In March, Madonna — who has had a contentious relationship with her son in the past — posted his work on her Instagram account, noting, “Anyone who knows me knows how much I love art, so you can imagine how excited I am to share some of my son Rocco’s paintings with you!’”
In 2015, a then-15-year-old Rocco, who was reportedly sick of being on the road with his touring mother, refused to leave his father’s London home and visit Madonna for a holiday break in New York City.
This led to a headline-making custody battle that Madonna lost. Afterward, she broke down in tears while performing in Australia saying, “There is no love stronger than a mother for her son.”
Today, sources close to Madonna say her relationship with her oldest son has greatly improved.
The singer, who has five other children, will sometimes acknowledge that Rocco staying in London live with Guy and his second wife, Jacqui Ainsley, and their three children have been the making of the young man.
“Guy really encouraged Rocco with his art because it was clear it was a passion,” said a source. ‘Things were tough for a while between Rocco and his mom — there were even times when they weren’t talking much — but now things are really good and he often flies out to Lisbon [Portugal, where Madonna has a home] to spend time with Madonna and his siblings, and she’s in London a lot.
“Guy and Madonna are both genuinely proud of him and how he is making his own way,” he source added. “Like any parents, they just want to support their son.”
Last September, Rocco posed topless for Vogue Hong Kong, next to a sign that reads “Rhed is dead.”
“Rhed is just a name. The only real meaning and importance of that were so my life and my career weren’t confusing each other, especially as a point where I haven’t earned the title yet,” Rocco told Vogue.
“It’s not that I don’t feel proud to be who I am, on the contrary, I couldn’t be prouder of my parents and what they’ve achieved, and, in turn, taught me.
“I just needed enough time to develop and experience my own lessons just like they did, without the public judgement. Rhed was a mask until it wasn’t.”
Judging by his Instagram, Rocco is presently working hard on new work which has been commissioned by wealthy benefactors, but still finding time to hang out with friends and family around the world.
“He has a much wider group of friends than when he first moved to London and just hung around with the kids of other rich and famous people,” said an insider.
“[His art school] crowd is into art, design, fashion and video, like he is. They all take part in each other’s work and help each other.”
Rocco’s has had an on-off relationship with model and DJ Kim Turnbull since 2016, but they haven’t been seen together publicly since last year.
His entrance into the art world comes as there are growing concerns about the commodification of the industry: how it has become more about wealthy collectors and “names” than artists and art.
“I like his work — it is good, it has emotion,” said artist Furrah Syed, who specializes in textured painting which can be enjoyed by the blind. ‘But today, for most of the galleries and consultants, art is all about the money.
‘You can see why Rocco would be instantly attractive because has all these great connections and a ready market of friends and family — so if this gallery hadn’t pounced on him, someone else would have; people with high-profile families will always be targets because they are surrounded by money.”
Indeed, Rocco is more privileged than most young artists in this he has his own studio in West London and lives in one of his mother’s UK residences nearby.
Art historian and writer Mary Attwood agrees that Rocco’s work shows talent.
“Actually, I think it is rather good. He seems to be a combination of Picasso and Francis Bacon, but the most important thing is he has developed a signature style which is all his own,” Atwood told Page Six.
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