You can’t really blame Brett Gorvy for telling the whopper about the sale of a Basquiat boxer in Hong Kong taking place because of an Instagram post. After all, Gorvy has had a love affair with the image-driven social media service for the last few years. Now that he’s making the transition from Christie’s to becoming a private dealer in partnership with Dominique Lévy it behooves him to create the impression that his Instagram feed is a vital sales platform.
The mystery is why the press has been so eager to repeat the fiction. First Bloomberg ran the story with no corroboration beyond Gorvy’s own self-interested claim. (Over the weekend, the Guardian garbled two of Gorvy’s posts to claim the boxer sold by Christie’s in Hong Kong was from Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. It wasn’t. That was a painting Gorvy persuaded Ulrich to sell years before Basquiat values super-nova-ed.) Now, the Independent cribs Bloomberg’s story. In the process, it provides plenty of evidence that undermines the basic premise of the tale:
[Gorvy] was just about to board a plane from New York to Hong Kong, and by the time he’d landed 16 hours later, three clients had texted him asking if they could purchase the painting.
One immediately made an offer and the painting was sold two days later for the incredible sum of £19.5m. […]
Although art sales through Instagram aren’t unusual any more, this one was particularly huge. At an auction in 2007, the painting was sold for £5.9m – through Instagram, it fetched over three times that amount. […]
And considering how quickly the Jean-Michel Basquiat painting sold, what the buyers want is immediacy.
(Below, we unpack the details for AMMpro subscribers.)
To recap, we’ve confirmed that the painting was not sold for $24m. It’s not uncommon for the public number on private sales to be inflated. But, in this case, the sale price being closer to a rumored $18m puts other pieces of the Instagram sale story into doubt.
Gorvy claims that he was contacted by three potential buyers because of the Instagram post above. He states clearly that all three who contacted him did so via text—and that they were existing clients. (Clients who have his mobile phone number and felt comfortable texting him.)
Central to the story is that Gorvy was flying to Hong Kong for a private sale exhibition. What Gorvy is suggesting in this story is that Christie’s private sales division has no, or insufficient, marketing resources. Christie’s shipped hundreds of millions of dollars of art to Hong Kong, this take suggests, and never bothered to alert their best customers until Brett Gorvy posted on Instagram.
In a previous post, we pointed out that while the Basquiat boxer was on display in Hong Kong, Gorvy and Christie’s told potential buyers that it was on hold by an Asian client. Gorvy would now have us believe that was a ruse told to potential buyers to cover for the fact that the work had been snapped up by an American client.
Later in during the exhibition, Christie’s private sales representatives told other interested parties that the Asian buyer had fallen through and the work was still available.
The reality seems to be that the work was sold for a still very strong $18m some time after the exhibition. For Christie’s, that would have been a real success. But Gorvy is no longer with Christie’s, so he seems to need a story that shifts the center of gravity to the fiction that Instagram is a vital sales tool.
How art-sellers are using Instagram to sell paintings worth £20m (The Independent)