The New York Observer has an odd tale of an upstate New York handyman who decided to sell a British painting at Sotheby’s and flew to London to watch the auction. The owner of the painting, who happens to have been Susan Sontag’s son, claims the work was stolen. If it was, the thief was brazenly foolish to have used Sotheby’s to sell the work–and to attend the sale himself–especially when the work brought $47,000.
Mr. Hoffman decided to attend the auction to see what fruit his painting might bear. With his 70-year-old mother beside him, Mr. Hoffman flew to London to watch as the 18th-century portrait, which documents would later show had been owned by Mr. Rieff’s father since 1970, was auctioned off.
Mr. Hoffman recalls there being a brief flurry of bids coming in over the phone, with the winner at $47,000.
“It was pretty exciting being there, watching the whole thing,” he recalled. After Sotheby’s took its customary 15 percent commission, the auction house mailed him a check for about $39,000, Mr. Hoffman said. He used the money “to fix up a few things around the house.”
The Good Thief (NY Observer)