The Art Auction House Sin Files –

The Art Auction House Sin Files –

Where does it all end? When will people realise that although the questionable practices exhibited by some auction houses are legal, they should not be tolerated? How far will art auction houses be able to go before someone steps in and says ENOUGH IS ENOUGH !! Let’s take a look at the history of sins committed, and those allegedly committed, by the big three art auction houses.

The most famous art auction house scandal took place in 2000 when Christie’s and Sotheby’s were dragged through the mud because of allegations that they had formed a “cartel” and were agreeing in advance to fix commission rates. The price-fixing scheme violated federal antitrust law by eliminating competitive choice and cost customers millions of dollars. Christie’s dobbed on Sotheby’s and were given immunity from prosecution for their information. Sotheby’s ended up taking most of the flak with several senior members getting the boot and two senior managers, A. Alfred Taubman and Dede Brooks, both getting jail sentences. Sotheby’s, Christie’s and their owners also paid a civil lawsuit settlement of $512 million.

In September of 2004, Forbes magazine reported that Christie’s were allegedly withholding information regarding the authenticity of objects from clients. These allegations were made by Canadian newspaper heiress Taylor Lynne Thomson who went on to sue Christie’s. According to Forbes magazine: “Thomson sued and British courts ruled in May that Christie’s had been too lax in its catalog description, leaving out qualifications to its classification of the urns as being “Louis XV.” The judge highlighted the auction specialists’ decision to remove the qualifying words “possibly Italian,” which would’ve raised the possibility of the urns being far less valuable 19th-century copies.”

Christie’s controversial purchase of the highly regarded gallery Haunch of Venison in 2007 caused a flurry of opinions, many of called the sale a conflict of interest and accused Christie’s of blurring the lines between what galleries and auction houses offer. Christie’s wasn’t the first auction house to purchase a gallery though as Sothebys also made a foray into the gallery world by purchasing Noortman Master Paintings in 2006.

In 2008, CNet founder Halsey Minor sued Sotheby’s for allegedly failing to fully declare when they had an ownership stake in works that they were selling. Sotheby’s won the case and were awarded $6.64 million in outstanding debts. Minor can appeal but, as far as I know, has yet to do so.

In February of this year Christie’s allegedly settled with a brother and sister who sued Christie’s for allegedly failing to identify a painting that they consigned to the auction house as being by Titian. The painting was sold for £8,000 by Christie’s in 1993 as a painting ‘from the school of Titian’. It was determined after the painting had been sold by Christie’s that it was in fact a genuine Titian which was worth in the region of 4 million pounds. The siblings claimed that Christie’s failed to competently research and advise on the painting’s value when it was sold in 1993.

In May of this year (2010), Jeanne Marchig, a Swiss animal philanthropist, launched a law suit against Christie’s for failing to identify a painting owned by Marchig, which was sold by Christie’s for $19,500 in 1998, as a painting by Leonardo worth upwards of 100 million pounds. Christie’s sold the painting as a mere ‘19th century German’ work for which Marchig is suing Christie’s for ‘wilful refusal and failure to investigate the plaintiff’s believed attribution, to comply with its fiduciary obligations, negligence, breach of warrant to attribute the drawing correctly, and making false statements in connection with the auction and sale’. Christie’s disagrees with the claims that the painting is a Leonardo. Reaching an outcome with this case is likely to take quite a while.

The most recent art auction scandal involves auction house Phillips de Pury and their ‘Carte Blanche’ sale which took place on November the 8th (2010). So many issues have been raised in relation to this auction that it would take a series of posts to explain them all so I will only mention the most serious allegations. To begin with, the so called “curator” of the auction, Philippe Ségalot, not only was directly responsible for negotiating and organising the consignment of works for the sale, but he also advised some of the buyers – a situation that could be seen as a serious conflict of interest. If this wasn’t enough of a conflict of interest, Segalot is reported to have bid on works himself presumably on behalf of his clients. There have also been several reports that the auctioneer on the night, Simon de Pury, failed to make it clear to the audience when works failed to sell, which auctioneers are legally required to do. By failing to announce the failure of a work to sell the auctioneer could be seen to be attempting to deceive the audience by inducing a false sense of success and excitement.

These are only a few of the more serious scandals that have arisen as a result of some questionable tactics and practices adopted by the world’s top art auction houses. Are these the sort of businesses that you want to business with? Would you trust such a company to treat you fairly and honestly? I have made it my mission to make art collectors and investors more aware of what is happening in the art auction world and hopefully at the same time encourage the art auction houses to be more honest, ethical and transparent. Stay tuned, there is more to come………

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


Top iPhone Apps for Art Collectors –

Top iPhone Apps for Art Collectors –

Several art related companies and institutions have taken advantage of the revolution that is the Apple iPhone, and released apps that make buying, browsing and finding out about works of art possible anywhere, anytime. Below are my top iPhone Apps for art collectors and investors. iPhone App

Why waste your valuable time searching hundreds of old auction house catalogs and websites for auction price results, when you can find everything you need all in one easy-to-use service?
Artfact is the world’s largest and most comprehensive online auction price guide, delivering over 55 million price results for fine art, decorative art, antiques and collectibles all sold at auction.

-Browse over 100,000 upcoming live auction items
-Research over half a million auction price results
-Place confidential absentee bids on upcoming lots
-Receive email alerts if you are outbid
-Share your favorite items via Facebook or email

Available free of charge from the iTunes App Store iPhone App

Invaluable Live! is the world’s premiere live auction bidding platform, enabling collectors and dealers around the globe to bid online in real-time on over 100,000 upcoming items for sale at auction. More than 150 traditional, international auction houses host their auctions exclusively on the Invaluable Live! platform.

-Browse over 100,000 upcoming live auction items
-Research over half a million auction price results
-Place confidential absentee bids on upcoming lots
-Receive email alerts if you are outbid
-Share your favorite items via Facebook or email

Available free of charge from the iTunes App Store

Christie’s iPhone App

When you are on the run, Christie’s iPhone application allows you to browse over 450 auctions in over 80 categories including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewelry, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more from the palm of your hand. With a touch of a finger, you can also review auction results and learn how to buy and sell with Christie’s.

* Email a lot to a friend
* Discover how to buy and sell with Christie’s or more about our Private Sale services
* Explore over 80 Specialist Departments
* Get directions to and locate our salerooms across the globe using Google maps
* Show your passion for fine art, jewelry, decorative arts and more with one of our downloadable wallpapers
* Learn about the history of the the world’s first fine art auctioneers, and about our company today

Available from iTunes App Store

Saffron Art iPhone App

Key features of the application include a color-coded bid status indicator, proxy bidding capabilities, as well as information on current bid amounts, bid histories and post-auction results. Users can also preview the entire auction catalogue, with such lot details as size, surface, medium, estimates and images, searching by lot number, artist or designer name, material or type

Available from iTunes App Store iPhone App

Anyone with this application loaded onto their iPhone will have instant access to any auction catalog listed on LiveAuctioneers and can even log in and leave absentee bids through our Secure Bidder Network (SBN). With SBN functionality, which is unique to LiveAuctioneers, your absentee bid is kept private and unknown to anyone until auction day, when the bid is executed. Additionally, the new iPhone app enables the user to share auction lots with others via e-mail and to access more than 4 million fully illustrated auction results from past sales conducted through LiveAuctioneers

Another bonus feature of LiveAuctioneers’ iPhone app is its exclusive direct connection to Auction Central News (, the leading online source for news about auctions, antiques and fine art.

Available from iTunes App Store

Heritage Auctions iPhone App

Heritage Auctions has announced the launch of a mobile version of its award-winning Website, Collectors now have the opportunity to search for, view and bid on any lot in any current Heritage auction from most any mobile device with a web browser from anywhere in the world where there’s Web service.

Available from iTunes App Store

Artnear iPhone App

Artnear is the first global guide to art for the iphone platform. Find top galleries and museums around the world. Browse and see images of current shows, openings and more.

Available from iTunes App Store

Seoul Auction iPhone App

Check what’s happening with Korea’s leading art auction house

Available from iTunes App Store

Saatchi Magazine iPhone App

Art News, views, reviews, interviews, essays by the world’s leading writers, critics and curators on art and artists, weekly openings and more…

Available from iTunes App Store

Louvre iPhone App

The Musee du Louvre in Paris has recently launched its own iPhone application, offering a virtual experience of the world’s largest museum. Users can view some of the Louvre’s most famous items, such as the Mona Lisa and St. Mary Magdalene, and take a virtual tour of the museum’s historic buildings. As well as virtual guides, the app also offers tourist information about the museum, such as opening times and visitor maps.

Available from iTunes App Store

National Gallery London iPhone App

The National Gallery is offering art lovers the opportunity to put works by Leonardo and Van Gogh in their pocket. A new application, called Love Art, allows iPhone and iTouch users to explore 250 of the Gallery’s best-loved paintings in the palm of their hand.

Take an unforgettable journey around the National Gallery. Zoom in to explore fine details and enjoy over three hours of video and audio content.

You can listen to the stories behind the masterpieces in insightful interviews with artists, writers and experts including:

* National Gallery Director Nicholas Penny
* Dramatist Robin Brooks
* Artist Maggie Hambling
* Author Tracy Chevalier

Available from the iTunes App Store

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

Herb & Dorothy – An Art Collector Documentary –

Herb & Dorothy – An Art Collector Documentary –

I was recently made aware of a new film that has just been released called Herb an Dorothy ( which is the true story of a postal worker and a librarian who built a world class art collection. Projects such as this can only have a positive impact on the art market and increase interest in art collecting so take the time to go and see a great (and award winning) movie while supporting the art market.

Details of movie below:


HERB & DOROTHY tells the extraordinary story of Herbert Vogel, a postal worker, and Dorothy Vogel, a librarian, who managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history with very modest means. They lived off of Dorothy’s salary and used Herb’s to collect art. They only had two requirements when purchasing art: the piece had to be affordable, and it had to be small enough to fit in their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment.

Over the decades they collected over 2000 pieces of art, (keeping all of it in their tiny apartment) and became patrons of artists including Sol LeWitt, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Richard Tuttle, Chuck Close, Robert and Sylvia Mangold, Lynda Benglis, Pat Steir, Robert Barry, Lucio Pozzi, and Lawrence Weiner.

Credits include;

Herbert Vogel
Dorothy Vogel
Sol LeWitt
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Richard Tuttle
Chuck Close
Robert and Sylvia Mangold
Lynda Benglis
Pat Steir
Robert Barry
Lucio Pozzi
Lawrence Weiner
Will Barnet


Now playing

@ Beekman Theatre, NYC
@ Cinema Village, NYC


Coming Soon to theaters Summer 2009.

– June 19~ at Landmark Ritz at Bourse, Philadelphia
– June 19~ at Landmark, San Francisco
– June 19~ at Landmark Shattuck, Berkeley
– June 27, 28 at The Guild Cinema, Albuquerque
– July 3~ at Landmark E-Street Cinema, Washington D.C.
– July 10~ at Landmark Nuart, Los Angels
– July 10~ at Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, Boston

Upcoming Screenings

= Taubman Museum of Art, VA: June 12
= Provincetown Film Festival: June 18-20
= Cinema Arts Center: June 25
= Criterion Cinemas: June 26
= Portland Museum of Art, Maine: July 10-12
= Denver Film Society Doc Night July 16
= Starz Film Center, Denver: July 17
= Miami Art Museum: July 19
= Oklahoma City Museum Of Art: July 23 -26
= Tower Theatre, Salt Lake City: July 31
= Seattle Northwest Film Forum: July 31
= Grand Cinema, Tacoma, WA: July 31
= Ogunquit Museum, Maine: August 4
= Aspen Film Series: August 16
= Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington DC: September 15
= Walker Art Center, Minneapolis: September 16
= Cincinnati Art Museum: September 18-20
= Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: September 26-28
= Wexner Center-Columbus, OH September 30

herb and dorothy 2Past Film Festivals

* Big Sky Documentary Film Festival 2009
* Transylvania International Film Festival 2009
* Little Rock Film Festival 2009
* Marfa Film Festival 2009
* Newport Beach Film Festival 2009
* Independent Film Festival Boston 2009
* Riverrun International Film Festival 2009
* Philadelphia Film Festival 2009
* Sarasota Film Festival 2009
* FIFA: Festival International du Film sur l’Art, Montreal 2009
* Cleveland International Film Festival 2009
* Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival 2009.
* The Reel Artists Film Festival, Toronto 2009.
* Palm Springs International Film Festival 2009
* Hamptons International Film Festival 2008.
* Silverdocs AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival 2008.

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

Social Networking for Art Collectors –

Social Networking for Art Collectors –

social-networkSocial networks are all the rage at the moment so I thought that I would put together a list of the top ten social networks that would be of benefit to art collectors and art investors. Joining a social network gives you access to the knowledge of other art collectors and investors as well as the opportunity to view the work of artists from all over the world.  Below is a list of the top ten social networking sights that cater specifically to people interested in visual art.
myartspace is an online community with more than 50,000 artists, collectors, students, teachers, gallerists, curators, critics and art appreciators across the world. myartspace is free and open to all. Members can create a profile of themselves and upload an unlimited quantity of their work including images, music, audio narration and video. is an exciting new social networking site for the artworld, creating a global forum for discussion, interactivity and debate. is a unique blend of editorial and community content, combining the insight and critical weight of some of today’s most important artworld voices with the input and opinions of everyday enthusiasts from around the world.
#artmesh is an inspiring and innovative network for those who live and love the fine arts. The difference to other art communities is the fact that – additionally to just showcasing artist’s work – #artmesh focuses on the interests of art lovers and art professionals as well.#artmesh is about communication and collaboration, about inspiration and the exploration of the boundless possibilities of a progressive and innovative virtual art-network., the #1 contemporary art network, launched in Los Angeles in February, 2007. It is a sophisticated website that brings a local and in-depth focus to the contemporary art scene. ArtSlant’s profiles put the spotlight on everyone in the art community. Artists, art professionals, art orgs, and art lovers can have their own showcase to exhibit their work, expose their business or talk about their involvement in the scene. In our community you will also find picks and reviews, jobs and opportunities, schools, blogs, and groups.
Artlog is the place for you to connect with folks, share your work and discover innovative new art & design. Artlog is for art makers, insiders, organizations and art lovers. This global community of art lovers, artists and industry insiders is only as vibrant as you make it. So follow interesting artists, make professional connections, post your work and let your voice be heard – “If you see something, say something!
Independent Collectors is an online tool targeted at modern and inquisitive collectors. It makes building a personal network and sharing information about topics like artists, galleries or events much easier and faster. In their personal profiles, collectors can talk about art preferences and present their own collection. Specific search functions help to find like-minded collectors or those living in the same area.
The artselector contemporary fine art collective was originally set up by MA Fine Art graduates of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art. artselector offers an innovative visual directory of international contemporary fine artists, independent curators and galleries
Rhizome’s community includes thousands of artists, academics, curators, critics, and other new media art enthusiasts. Profiles is a collection of community profiles that contains artist portfolios, blogs, biographies, and other details on each individual member. Profiles was developed in the hope of sparking connections and collaborations across regional or cultural boundaries and strengthening the new media art scene as a whole.
We work with and for artists, arts and culture organisations and networks, cultural professionals and audiences in the 50 countries of Europe, as well as providing a platform for cultural cooperation between Europe and the rest of the world. Our mission is both to ensure that all those working on cultural collaboration have access to up-to-the-minute information and to encourage the cultural sector to become more experimental with online technologies.
ArtBistro brings members of the visual art community together to network, advance careers, and to foster a community with exclusive benefits where information about artists and designers is provided by artists and designers.

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

The Reality of Feb 09 Art Auctions –

The Reality of Feb 09 Art Auctions –

christies1The first round of major art auctions for 09 have proven that there is still a considerable amount of money available to be spent on top quality and rare works of art provided the price is right. Fresh works from private collections appeared to be particularly sought after, a sign that solid and extensive provenance continues to be a big draw card. Even some of the less impressive works were eagerly fought over which suggests that the low prices and the excitement of the year’s first major auctions may have induced a bit of over-enthusiasm. The conservative estimates gave buyers plenty of reason to open their wallets and the smaller sales encouraged healthy competition for the top works.

Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale was the most impressive sale realising a total of £63,428,750 / $91,210,543 / €70,088,769 with 83% sold by lot and 88% by value. Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale wasn’t quite as successful as Christie’s bringing in a total of £32.6 million with 76% sold by lot and 68% by value. Sotheby’s failure to mention the sold by value percentage of their evening sale even though they did mention the sold by lot percentage suggests that they weren’t quite as impressed with their results as Christie’s were.

With the Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sales, Sotheby’s trumped Christie’s with the sold by lot and sold by value percentages but Christie’s sale total was higher than that of Sotheby’s. Christie’s sold £14,131,975 / $20,307,648 / €15,841,944 work of works with a 76% sold by lot percentage and an 81% sold by value percentage where as Sotheby’s sold £11,292,825 / $16,179,230 / €12,687,503 work of work with 83% sold by lot and 90% sold by value.

The figures look impressive considering the events of the past six months but were the auctions really as successful as the figures suggest?. In short, no. And here’s why. First of all, Christie’s 2008 Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale realised £105,372,000 which is considerably more than the £63,428,750 taken at this years sale. Sotheby’s 09 Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale faired even worse when compared with their 08 sale which realised £117 million pounds, more than three times what the 09 sale achieved. Yes, the sales were much smaller, but the auction houses conducted smaller sales because there is not as much money available to be spent on art and the buyers are much more discerning. A smaller sale means that there are less works to fight over thus increasing the chance that the chance that the bidding will be far more competitive. Low estimates provided even more encouragement for bidders to get involved and, as I am sure many of you know, once you get involved in a bidding competition with someone else you don’t want to come out the loser.

Had this years sales had the same number of works and the same estimates it is unlikely that the results would have been as good as they were. Because of this, the only way that they true state of the art market could have been measured using these auctions was if the circumstances (auction size, estimates) were the same as they were the previous year. Sold by lot percentages and sold by value percentages are easily manipulated by the auction houses using the tactics that I have mentioned above. What can’t be manipulated by the auction houses is the total number of people that are willing and able to spend money on art and the total dollar value that they are able to spend. The success of a business such as Sotheby’s is determined by the dollar amount of profit that they make. Common sense would suggest that the dollar amount of profit that Sotheby’s and Christie’s made from their significantly smaller auctions would be far less than the dollar amount of profit they made in the much larger sales of 2008. Adjusting to the conditions to achieve results that appear to be positive is not the same as achieving a positive result.

To be continued…….

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