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Sotheby's continues to inexplicably try to enhance the drama of its evening sale of Contemporary art by bathing the room in ballroom blue lights and running a video introduction to the event. The effort is inexplicable because last night's saleroom was remarkably sparse with several empty sections of seats and a number of bidders seated in farther back than one might like to get the "excitement" going.
Sotheby's sale didn't need stage managing or borrowed drama from a set decorator. The tension was baked in almost six months ago when many in the industry were fretting over how to fill their all-important November sales. Sotheby's faced a disadvantage as it continued to rebuild its team of specialists.
In the context of the Summer of 2016, acquiring the Ames collection with a $100m guarantee—populated as it was with works by Gerhard Richter whose market, especially his abstracts, seemed ready for a rest—seemed like an aggressive and risky move. Sotheby's 2015 Q4 results had been marred by the firm's failure to make commission on the huge Taubman sales. BID, the auction house's stock, collapsed which opened the door to opportunistic and strategic investors. Taikang's 13.5% stake in the company was, in many ways, a direct result.
So taking on Ames was no small risk. But the alternative was probably worse. Here's one dealer summing it up for Dan Duray at The Art Newspaper:
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