Bloomberg has an interesting close reading of the complaint in the case between Sotheby’s and the sellers of Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi which has broken out into a public dispute because of Sotheby’s filing. Read the whole thing to get a sober take on what’s going there.
Here is the nub of the issue if you don’t want to read the whole story:
“If Sotheby’s had the consent of the owners to sell the painting, you can hardly blame them for selling it to someone who flipped or made a dishonest profit from it,” Agnew said. “But if they were in partnership with Bouvier to get him the best possible deal, that’s another matter.”
Richard Lehun, an attorney specializing in art and fiduciary law, says when an auction house agrees to act on behalf of a seller, as a rule an “agency relationship” is created. That means the auction house is legally bound to act exclusively in the interests of the seller, including getting the best possible sale conditions and price.
“But unless the complaint gets litigated in court or the contracts are made public, we won’t know the extent of the agency relationship between the sellers and Sotheby’s,” Lehun added.