D Magazine didn’t take long to look for a dark conspiracy in Sotheby’s acqusition of Art Agency, Partners whose principal, Allan Schwartzman has had Howard Rachofsky for a client for decades. Many who heard the news of the acquisition wondered if clients would feel that AAP had enough independence within Sotheby’s to put the client’s interest first.
Here, the writer comes at it from another direction by suggesting Schwartzman would use his role as an advisor as a backdoor to manipulate the value of individual artists for Sotheby’s benefit.
Howard Rachofsky has a particular relationship with the Dallas Museum of Art. Not only is he one of the museum’s major donors and supporters, but because of his “bequest” – a promise he and two other prominent collector families made in 2007 that will ensure that his collection is donated to the museum after his passing – Rachofsky’s collection essentially forms the foundation of the DMA’s contemporary art program. Not only are the works in his collection at the museum’s disposal, but a number of exhibitions at the museum in recent years have been mounted in consort with the collector’s latest acquisitions and interests. Now we have a situation where the person who is shaping that collection – and, by extension, playing a real role in shaping the DMA’s contemporary art program – is also an employee of one of the largest auction houses in the world.
To really appreciate the apparent conflict this creates, you have to remember how value is created in the world of art. Museums establish provenance, and that provenance comes with an attached value. If museums suddenly take interest in an artist or an artistic movement – like, say, post-war Japanese art – then the perception is that that art has new historical value.
That last bit is an illusion to Schwartzman’s role in bringing Gutai artist Kazuo Shiraga to prominence. Of course, museums have played only a following role in Shiraga’s rise in value. But that should get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.