November 16, 2017Nota bene #10
by Felix Salmon
Notes on $450,312,500
- The hammer price was a round $400,000,000, which means that the buyer's premium alone was more than $50 million. By convention, the buyer's premium goes to the auction house for its troubles, but you can be sure that Christie's grossed much less than $50,312,500 last night. The seller will have negotiated "enhanced hammer," which means that the Rybolovlev family will be receiving significantly more than $400 million. On top of that, the lot had a third-party guarantee, which means that Christie's has to split its profits with the guarantor. That said, even after a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign, Christie's surely made a healthy profit on this lot.
- The last time this painting was sold by an auction house was only four years ago, in 2013, when Sotheby's sold it privately to Yves Bouvier for $80 million. That decision, to go with a private sale rather than a glitzy public auction, now looks very, very stupid.
- Bouvier then flipped the work to Rybolovlev for $127.5 million. When Rybolovlev found out how much Bouvier made on the deal, he was furious, and basically gave up art collecting entirely. His decision to sell the painting was made in anger, out of pique that he had been ripped off. Now it seems he has made more money off one painting, in four years, than most art collectors dream of making in a lifetime. There's probably a moral here, but I have no idea what it is.
- The difference between the 2013 sale and the 2017 sale isn't just four years and $300+ million, it's also the difference between a private sale and a public sale. A public sale, at least when it's orchestrated by Christie's in the way that this one was, involves glitz and expensive marketing videos and hour-long lines and lighting worthy of a Thomas Kinkade store...MUCH MORE