There’s a lawsuit in the UK that gives us a narrative of the $300m sale of Gauguin’s Nafea faa ipoipo (When will you marry?) which was bought from Rudolf Staechlin’s family foundation in 2014 for an endlessly repeated report of $300m privately, one of the key events in marking the top of the art market in the 2014-15 period.
It turns out that the sale was for $210m and that is a source of some recriminations between the seller and one of the intermediaries who is suing to get a commission.
Simon de Pury went to school with Staechelin and acted as a go-between for Guy Bennett, the al-Thani family’s representative in art dealings. But de Pury tried one of the oldest sales moves, get the buyer and seller talking and hope one of them will move.
Turns out the Qataris were firm on their price and Staechelin eventually compromised:
Mr de Pury and Mr Bennett first met to discuss a possible acquisition in 2012, the court heard. Mr de Pury then approached Mr Staechelin, an old schoolfriend, to ask if he had any interest in selling. At that point, Mr Staechelin said he would not sell for less than $250 million, and negotiations stalled.
They resumed in 2014 and the sale went through, but Mr de Pury’s commission never materialised. Mr Staechelin claims Mr de Pury lured him to the table by saying the Qataris were willing to pay $230 million, but this was “dishonesty” as Mr de Pury always knew the buyers would offer $210 million.
Mr Staechelin’s counsel, John Wardell QC, said there had been “a clear breach of fiduciary duty and all commission has been forfeited if any right ever existed”.