The Master, Judd Tully, gives the full story behind Alan Bond’s machinations with art. Once the holder of a record-price bid, Bond lacked the funds to pay for the work. That didn’t deter Sotheby’s which did everything it could to consummate the transaction:
Bond couldn’t pay for the painting and Sotheby’s, led at the time by ceo Diana D. Brooks, who later would be prosecuted for price-fixing, cut a post-sale deal through the firm’s financial services arm, essentially loaning the skinned magnate some $27 million (roughly half the purchase price) and holding the painting in an undisclosed location as collateral.
That unusual arrangement, at least in the auction world of that time, only became public knowledge in 1989, almost two years after the historic sale when it was revealed by an executive in Dallhold Investment Ltd., Bond’s holding company, that the painting was still under Sotheby’s control and would continue to be until Bond finished paying off the loan. That loan closure apparently came about in November 1989 when Bond sold Edouard Manet’s “la Promenade” from 1880 at Sotheby’s New York for $14.85 million (est. $10-14 million). The catalogue entry wasn’t shy about the ownership, identifying the painting as “Property from a Collection formed by Alan Bond.”
Even that work fell under a financial cloud when Australian corporate regulators later claimed the painting had been used in an intercompany shuffling that benefitted Bond’s family company over that of the publicly traded Bond Corporation. It remains unclear as to whether Bond ever got to live with or even see “Irises” again, a composition that van Gogh painted in the unkempt garden of the asylum at Saint- Remy where he was voluntarily confined for a time after his falling out with Gauguin in Arles and the self-mutilation of his right ear.
The painting changed hands for a final time in March 1990 when it was announced that the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu acquired the work for an undisclosed sum and entered the collection as the museum’s “greatest 19th century painting.” Sotheby’s brokered that deal and market experts at the time speculated the purchase price was in the range of $50-70 million.