Friday, May 22, 2009

Minor Sale

The Art Market Monitor notes that one of the works involved in Halsey Minor's dispute with Sotheby's -- a Childe Hassam painting he bought for $3.9m last Fall, but refused to pay for after discovering that the auction house hadn't disclosed that it had an interest in another work he bought at the same time -- sold this week for $2.3m. In response to a commenter, the Monitor "venture[s] that [Minor's] claim [against Sotheby's] is not sincere. He seized upon the [allegedly undisclosed interest] as evidence that Sotheby’s was not advising him properly in the purchase. But an auction house is a vendor. The idea that they are disinterested defies all common sense and commercial experience. Minor’s high dudgeon doesn’t change that. Generally a vendor has an interest in making a sale." Minor then shows up in the comments to say: "Speculation is always fun but let the court rule. They and they alone have all the facts. Just as an FYI this painting had a guarantee attached when I bought it. There was no mention in the catalogue. Are you aware of guaranteed items ever not being notated?"

Speaking of letting the court rule, I took a look at PACER, and it seems Sotheby's recently moved for partial summary judgment in the case. Their motion papers note that in 1997 Sotheby's wrote to to the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), explaining that "since the adoption of the revised regulations in [1987], Sotheby's has understood that if the auctioneer makes a loan to an auction consignor secured by works of art which are included in an auction, Sotheby's is not obligated specifically to disclose in the catalogue which items are loan collateral. Rather, Sotheby's satsifies its disclosure obligation by including in the catalogue a general policy statement that sets forth its lending policy." The General Counsel for the DCA wrote back: "I can confirm that the practices described in your letter are in accord with" the pertinent rules.