June 19th, 2015

Major Art Trophies at Auction — Three Bidders Tell All

Each bidder had one thing in common — they were quite nervous! Being the connection between the buyer and the auction house is a stressful place to be, especially when dealing with clients who might be in Russia or China, and who might not speak English. When you bring assistants for the buyers into the mix, you have yet another level in the line of communication.

Phone Auction

Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images via wnyc.org

The dealer remarked on this aspect of it all, the layers of inter-mediation. The person talking on the phone with a Sotheby’s specialist who’s standing in the sale room might be a dealer who, in turn, represents a buyer. Take a look at the photo, above. Is there any question that the woman (second from the right) is getting an earful? Regret, anger, you name it, I’m sure they have heard it all.

Asked to describe that experience, the dealer, in turn, asked a question. “Have you ever done any theater? Yes? Do you even remember being on stage? No? That’s what it’s like. During the process, you’re laser focused, but afterwards, you feel like, ‘What just happened?'”

In the end, the stress and communication difficulties are worth it. Waxing whimsical, she noted, “It was a gift to be able to help him buy that work,” she said.

“The painting is now matched with someone who looks at it every day. It’s incredibly rewarding professionally. It was the first time I ever bid above $10 million, and it makes him deliriously happy. As a young adult, he’d gone to the artist’s studio. Then 30-plus years later he was able to get a great work by the artist. It’s perfect.”

We agree. In the end, the triumph is worth the hunt.