The Times’s Randy Kennedy has fished out of the court papers concerning the lawsuit between Jan Cowles and Gagosian Gallery an email that will not soon be forgotten. Just to remind you, Gagosian sold two works for Cowles’s son Charles who was in need of money. One was a Mark Tansey that had been partially gifted to the Met. There was already a lawsuit over that work. The other was an Lichtenstein Girl with a Mirror that Gagosian had estimated he could get $3m for since another version had sold publicly for $4m shortly before.
Eventually the work was sold for $2m and Gagosian told Charles that it was priced so low because the work was damaged. That might indeed have been the case. Sure Gagosian would have preferred to sell the work for more money not less. Whatever the facts, the email that Kennedy quotes in the Times makes it clear that Gagosian’s buyer needed some coaxing:
But by 2009, according to the e-mails, the gallery had offered the painting for considerably less to a collector, Thompson Dean, a managing partner of a private equity firm, telling Mr. Dean that he had an opportunity to get an incredible bargain. “Seller now in terrible straits and needs cash,” said a July e-mail to Mr. Dean from a Gagosian staff member. “Are you interested in making a cruel and offensive offer? Come on, want to try?”
As outrageous as the quote seems, it is clear that getting anyone to offer on the picture was taking some real work on the gallery’s part. Dean was obviously reluctant.
Frank E-Mails Reveal Negotiations at Art Gallery (New York Times)