Todd Brassner next to his Andy Warhol portrait, c. 1994.

Art Dealer Dies in Fire at Trump Tower

Todd Brassner, the sixty-seven-year-old man who was the lone fatality in a fire that consumed a Trump Tower apartment on Saturday, was an art dealer with a collection of artwork valued at over $3 million, according to the New York Times. The fire, reported at 5:30 PM, could be seen from the street and spread throughout the apartment, which firefighters said was heavily furnished and entirely ablaze. Brassner was found unconscious and taken to the hospital, where he later died. 

According to the New York Times, Brassner tried to sell his fiftieth-floor apartment following the 2016 presidential election, but failed to sell the midtown property, which was appraised at $2.5 million in 2015. He lived alone amid a collection that included art by Robert Indiana, Mark Klarwein, and Jack Kerouac, as well as a 1975 portrait of Brassner by Andy Warhol.

The apartment did not have sprinklers, which are not mandatory. In 1999, Trump was among many real estate developers that pushed back against legislation to require sprinkler systems in most residential buildings in New York City; he argued that they were unneeded and would increase the cost of the unit by $4 per square foot.

Those who knew Brassner describe his life as one of extravagance. He surrounded himself with vintage music equipment, including a hundred guitars and even more ukuleles. He drove sports cars and rubbed elbows with artists in Warhol’s Factory. It was Brassner’s father, also an art dealer, who introduced Brassner to Warhol. A friendship developed. “They were like two fourteen-year-olds, seeing the world,” art collector Stuart Pivar said. “And he was very knowledgeable about pop art.” He filed for bankruptcy in 2015, but he received a large inheritance when his father died shortly thereafter. 

Brassner’s lifestyle changed in recent years, as he began having health problems and stayed mostly in his apartment. Pivar told the New York _Times _that drug use led to the dealer being swindled out of valuable artworks, and Blake Gopnik, a critic who is writing a biography of Warhol, said interview plans with Brassner always fell through due to various elaborate excuses.  

Fire department officials have neither commented on the damage to Brassner’s belongings nor determined the reason for the fire, which caused non-life-threatening injuries to four firefighters. The New York _Times _learned from Pivar, who was close with Warhol, that the space was “so cluttered Mr. Brassner could barely move.”