There’s nothing new about dealers selling stock through their rivals, the auctioneers, but the trend seems to be peaking through lockdown. Early on this year both Sotheby’s and Christie’s created platforms for dealers to sell through their private sales pages; in April, Sotheby’s launched a new Gallery Network to promote artists represented by a select group of contemporary art dealers they described as “partners.” And on Thursday it was announced in Dubai’s The National newspaper that they would be auctioning work on behalf of local galleries that suffered a setback with the cancellation of Art Dubai in March.
The trend has also been notable in the Old Master market where dealers may have been hardest hit. Their art needs to be seen and inspected in the flesh more than Modern or Contemporary art, and they have been, consequently, less versed in the art of marketing online than dealers in more recent art. But ever since TEFAF Maastricht had to close early in March, the main money-spinning fairs for them to look forward to—Masterpiece London in June and TEFAF New York in the autumn which has an Old Master focus—have been canceled. Old Master dealers taking part in London Art Week in July have a digital replacement, but it hardly compares to a tête-à-tête with Leon Black or a director from the Getty.
In Paris, the cancellation of the Biennale des Antiquaires in September has spurred Christie’s to organize an online auction for the exhibitors—many of them dealers in Antiquities and Old Masters. Now Sotheby’s is getting proactive in this area. Although the successful sales they staged for London dealers Rafael Valls and Danny Katz were in the pipeline before lockdown, they provided a useful springboard for their latest initiative.
For this, they have been fortunate to have the respected former New York dealer, Otto Naumann, who joined Sotheby’s two years ago as Client Development Director for Old Masters, on board. Naumann has organized 39 dealers from London and New York to select three “specially curated” items each from stock for an online auction called “The Dealers’ Eye”—it goes live on Sotheby’s website this morning, with bidding opening June 18 and running through June 25. From New York are leading dealers Wildenstein, Richard Feigen, Colnaghi, and Adam Williams. London has TEFAF regulars Derek Johns, Patrick Matthiesen, Sam Fogg, and Mark Weiss, among others.
With these, Naumann says, “we’ve created our own version of an art fair, where dealers can continue to promote the works that make their individual galleries so unique.” Continue Reading