Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bid Battle

Bloomberg's Philip Boroff reports that "Gregory Callimanopulos, a shipping magnate and collector, said in a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court that Christie’s improperly reopened bidding for [a Sam Francis] painting ... after his $3 million telephone bid was accepted by the auctioneer."

The Art Market Monitor was in the salesroom that night, and says:

"What happened in the room was fairly simple. [Auctioneer Christopher] Burge was bringing the hammer down [when] a spotter to his right called out a bid just as the hammer clapped down on the podium. Burge quickly announced the new bid and declared 'you saw it,' which was funny because he hadn’t seen it himself but heard the spotter shout. As he re-opened bidding, the telephone bidder made a half-hearted chopped bid and the late-bidder countered to win the lot as the room filled with murmurs. Jose Mugrabi could be seen in his seat wagging his finger at Burge."

Section 2-238(2) of the UCC provides that "a sale by auction is complete when the auctioneer so announces by the fall of the hammer or in other customary manner. Where a bid is made while the hammer is falling in acceptance of a prior bid the auctioneer may in his discretion reopen the bidding or declare the goods sold under the bid on which the hammer was falling."

And Christie's Conditions of Sale -- which "by bidding at auction the bidder agrees to be bound by" -- provide that "the auctioneer has the right at his absolute and sole discretion to ... advance the bidding in such a manner as he may decide, ... and, in the case of error or dispute, and whether during or after the sale, to determine the successful bidder, to continue the bidding, to cancel the sale or to reoffer and resell the item in dispute. If any dispute arises after the sale, our sale record is conclusive."