Journalists continue to work overtime trying to find something nefarious in the art market revealed by the Panama Papers. Today, NPR suggests the Ganz sale had lasting effect on art prices that would not have existed had the sale not been guaranteed. (Imagine, for a minute, how one sale would effect 20 years of extraordinary price growth in art):
The Panama Papers show that both Lewis and Christie’s stood to share the profits if the auction brought in more than $168 million, which it did. The deal wasn’t illegal, but it was secretive — and the auction’s success resulted in an uptick in the price of art that’s still in effect today.
If that weren’t enough, the radio report then goes to Sarah Thornton, who swore off art market reporting several years ago, who suggests the third party guarantee created by Joseph Lewis to win the consignment somehow created the high prices paid for the Ganzs’ works.
As for a Christie’s shareholder acting as a kind of “third party” back in 1997, Thornton says it certainly explains how such high prices were commanded.
In 1988, there was a previous, smaller sale from the Ganz collection held at Sotheby’s not long after Victor Ganz had died. Although only comprising 12 works by Picasso, Rauschenberg, Stella and Johns, the sale made $48.4m which was huge at the time both in dollar terms and relative to other sales of Modern and Contemporary art. With or without a guarantee, the Ganz’s taste in art would have provoked high prices.