James Tarmy has a little too much fun winding up Christie’s and Sotheby’s over the cleaned and restored Constable that was purchased at a Christie’s sale of English aristocrats household effects and was eventually cleaned and discovered to be a Constable attracting bidders to $5.2m:
Bidding for the painting began slowly—it started at $1 million and went upward in $100,000 increments—but the pace picked up when two anonymous phone bidders faced off, driving the price well past its presale estimate of $2 million to $3 million. By the time it hit $4 million the room had become totally silent, and it was then that one untraceable male voice in the back muttered, “Someone at Christie’s is going to get fired.”
Normally, when a painting does well at Sotheby’s, the only reaction from its archrival Christie’s is off-the-record disdain (or at most, professional jealousy for missing out on the consignment in the first place). In the case of the Constable, titled Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, the problem for Christie’s is that it had in fact been consigned to them just two years ago. And they’d sold it, too … for just $5,212, or approximately 57,559 percent less than Sotheby’s presale high estimate.
The Secret to Getting a 99,766 Percent Return in the Art Market (Bloomberg Business)