The New York Times is going to great lengths to find a fault in its story mopping up the revelations from the stolen Mossack Fonseca data. Late last week, The Guardian revealed the financial arrangements around the Ganz sale that was a major catalyst for, and precursor of, today’s booming art market.
The Guardian makes quite clear in their story that Joe Lewis, then the largest shareholder in Christie’s, had created vehicles to offer the Ganz heirs a guarantee. Whether the heirs participated in the upside of the auction’s success is not known from these documents (though The Guardian leaves open the possibility through some ambiguous wording.)
Whatever else, one thing is absolutely clear from The Guardian story: Victor Ganz, who had died 10 years earlier, and his wife were the collectors. The ownership might have passed briefly to an entity set up solely to effectuate a sale but no collector or dealer had been given the opportunity to offer on or pass up any of the works the Ganzs owned.
That’s important because the market defines “fresh” as meaning no other collector or dealer has been offered these works. The Guardian story even clarifies that Joe Lewis was able to benefit financially from the Ganz sale but he was barred from bidding on the works for himself.
Yet here is how the International New York Times puts it [emphasis added]:
It was all a massive “flip,” … The question is whether people would have paid as much if they had known that the art was not fresh from the estate of two connoisseurs who had spent half a century scouring galleries for gems by artists like Picasso, Jasper Johns and Frank Stella.
“To ‘flip’ an entire collection of that quality is unprecedented,” said the art adviser Wendy Goldsmith, who was Christie’s director of 19th-century European art in London at the time and was unaware of the auction house’s arrangement with Mr. Lewis. “It was an icon of estate sales, a milestone in pricing. Bidders were buying the Ganz provenance.”
What the Panama Papers Reveal About the Art Market (The New York Times)