The Most Revealing Art Auction Investigations – artmarketblog.com

The Most Revealing Art Auction Investigations – artmarketblog.com

Over the years many very interesting and revealing investigations into the inner workings of art auction houses have been conducted by journalists.  Having read most of the results of these investigations myself, I thought that it would be useful to provide a list of what I believe are the most informative and educational investigations to have been published in recent times.  If you are wondering at this point whether I hold some sort of grudge against art auction house then I can assure you that I don’t.  Most of the problems that have arisen with the art auction sector have originated from either one person or a small number of people who think that they are invincible and take things too far.

1. Halsey Minor, an internet tycoon and art collector, recently contacted me regarding a post I wrote on the sins committed by art auction houses.  Minor contacted me to inform me that he had recently launched an appeal against the summary judgement ruling in favor of Sotheby’s in their breach of contract action against him.  As well as informing me of the appeal, Halsey also provided me with a copy of the now publically available appellate brief for this case which you can view here:

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B8p8DAKg7zgqYjAyN2YwOGItNGY3My00YzNjLTkxMjEtZmI5NjdkMDQwYTBh&hl=en

You can also see the papers from the ruling in favour of Sotheby’s here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/29409086/Sothebys-v-Minor-Judgment

Although I cannot comment on the appeal  as it is still being processed, I would urge everyone to read both sides of the case and make up their own mind.

2. In 2008 an Australian television program called Four Corners conducted an investigation into the actions of several major Australian auction houses.  Below is a link to a very interesting interview with Paul Sumner, the owner of Australian art auction house Mossgreen:

http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2008/s2316296.htm

3. The biggest scandal to hit the art auction world was the commission fixing scandal involving Sotheby’s and Christie’s that surfaced in 2000.  See a particularly revealing investigation by the NY Times here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/08/us/secret-partners-unraveling-conspiracy-private-files-fuel-art-auction-inquiry.html?pagewanted=1

4. In 2004, Forbes magazine published an article titled ‘Dirty Secrets of the Auction Houses’ which is well worth taking a look at:

http://www.forbes.com/2004/07/09/cz_mr_0709soapbox.html

5. The Wall Street Journal published an interesting article in 2008 that looked into the way auction houses report their results:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122670620372529693.html

6. The Economist published a particularly insightful article in November that investigated several issues with the November 2010 Phillips De Pury ‘Carte Blanche’ sale:

http://www.economist.com/node/17551930

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

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3 Responses

  1. Hi Nicholas-

    Would you be interested in guest hosting on my blogtalkradio show? I would love to get your information on Auctions houses out to the US artists. Let me know. You can find out more about the show at BlogTalkRadio.com/annette-coleman

    Send me your phone number and I can follow up with a call. All the best and thanks for sharing your perspective with your blog. Annette

  2. Wow. At first I thought..oh, these are only links to articles. I was maybe looking for a juicy, opinionated
    ‘summary’ of big buck art auctions. I did puruse one
    link-article by a Mr. Rosenbaum….My gosh. A real live
    journalist….someone trying to find real and relevant
    data….connecting the dots between who benefits/profits and market price. Good for him and thanks to Mr. Forrest. “Don’t cha kinda wonder” why
    they make it so obsure for the public?

  3. I think this extends to online auctions such as artnet. Their sellers are not that well vetted. In a recent experience misrepresented the sale of a picture. The online market can be frustrating too. Their estimates exceed many i have seen for comparable pics in the auction houses, and like auction houses lack transparency

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