There’s been a particularly sharp-edged rumor floating around the art business for several weeks that just appeared in Vanity Fair and was shot down in the Wall Street Journal today. It involves the negotiations over the Taubman estate which as already been somewhat over-shadowed by the side of the guarantee. (Imagine how hard it would have been for Christie’s to get any buyers to think about the art had they won the sale and tried to market it amongst all of the gossiping? Any talk of Taubman’s legacy would have created the paradox of Christie’s touting Sotheby’s past successes.)
Here’s the version of the rumor that Vanity Fair ran:
So, it was shocking when it was revealed that the Taubman children had also solicited a bid from Christie’s for the auction of their father’s collection.
“They were absolutely ruthless playing Christie’s against Sotheby’s,” said one major collector. Ruthless and effective. According to a major art-world player, Sotheby’s had to ratchet up its initial $350 million guarantee to $500 million after it was informed the family had decided to give Christie’s the business. It is the largest guarantee in auction history.
“I’m appalled at what the children did,” said this player. “Bobby is a board member; he’s supposed to increase shareholder value. It’s going to be very hard for Sotheby’s to earn out that guarantee. And they are so greedy that they were willing to do business with the people responsible for sending their father to jail.”
Here’s what Kelly Crow has with Taubman’s son going on the record. You’ll notice the wording leaves the first story some plausibility through omission or apples-to-oranges comparison:
Mr. Taubman’s younger son, William, said his father insisted the family auction it wherever they wanted, to “maximize prices, not sentiment.” He declined to discuss the financial terms, but three other people familiar with the deal said Christie’s and Sotheby’s each offered to guarantee the estate for around $450 million in August. As negotiations went forward, each offered to guarantee portions of the estate ranging between $350 million and $450 million, the people said. William Taubman said Christie’s proposal was “excellent” but said that the family gave Sotheby’s a final chance to counter.