The Wall Street Journal pulls a few tidbits from Michael Strauss’s new memoir recapping his career at Sotheby’s:
- So-called “auction fever” can be a trap. In 1985, Egon Schiele’s watercolor “Portrait of Johann Harms” was auctioned at Sotheby’s New York, estimated at $200,000-$250,000. Mr. Strauss had an order from a client to go up to $320,000. But, when he saw that a famous Schiele expert was bidding against him, Mr. Strauss “got quite carried away,” thinking the man must know something he didn’t. The bidding went up to $620,000 before Mr. Strauss dropped out. The next day, his rival said he only bid so high because he thought Mr. Strauss knew something he didn’t.
- His life at Sotheby’s began with a fierce rivalry with Bruce Chatwin, a cataloger at the auction house who later became a famed travel writer. The collection of novelist Somerset Maugham was coming up for sale and both Chatwin and Mr. Strauss wanted to shine as its cataloger. As Mr. Strauss tells it, Chatwin tricked him by saying they would catalog together the next morning at 9:30 a.m. Instead, Chatwin turned up at 5:30 a.m. and did the lot.
An Eye for the Market: Specialists Share Secrets (Wall Street Journal)