(Rich) People-Watching At Christie’s

Art auction skeptic and non-millionaire Henry Alford wrote a fascinating / ridiculous piece for the Times about interloping at the record-breaking art bonanza that was last week’s Christie’s auction:

Waiters wandered through the galleries bearing six-foot-long poles from which were suspended shelves heavy with Bloody Marys or dishes of scrambled eggs; generating the din of French and Russian and Japanese well-wishing were enough age-inappropriate couples to suggest that the event’s unannounced theme was Father-Daughter.

The auction, as you may have read, brought in $691.5 million dollars and included the all-time highest price for a piece of art sold at auction (Francis Bacon triptych; $142.4 million) as well as the highest priced work ever sold by a living artist (Jeff Koons Balloon Dog; $58.4 million).

Henry, on the other hand, spent nothing:

…At the end of the two auctions, I experienced an unanticipated sensation of buoyancy and uplift. In short, it felt amazing to have witnessed such a cavalcade of overspending. Suddenly all the indulgences I’ve fallen prey to in my life were reduced in size. The last-minute trips to Europe at peak flying times, the unnecessary massages, the $5 bottles of mango juice — all seemed, by comparison, weeny, baublelike.

This mild euphoria returned the day after the Sotheby’s sale when, needing to wrap a present for a friend, I tore a 12-by-15-inch reproduction of an abstract painting by Joan Mitchell out of the 6.8-pound, $60 Christie’s catalog, and wrapped the gift in it. It looked terrific. With 447 more pages of the catalog left to go, my savings on wrapping paper over the next decade should be considerable. Many art lovers hemorrhaged cash this past week, but suddenly I’m minting it.

Photo: Benedict Francis

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7 Comments / Post A Comment

loren smith (#2,300)

Auctions! I worked on and off at a fine arts and antique auction for a few years, and man, what a place.

MargaretMead (#2,229)

Working for auction houses is the worst, it’s a weirdly specific set of skills and not great pay unless you make it very high up the food chain. A lot of the staff tend to be very well educated, and also there’s special ‘rich people etiquette’ to contend with in addition to being underpaid and having a really formal dress code.

loren smith (#2,300)

@MargaretMead It is – I sort of loved it though. I was at a small regional auction and it was mainly a huge joke. We’d drink champagne from fancy consigned glasses, and try on all the jewels.

andnowlights (#2,902)

@loren smith @MargaretMead Oh man, I would *love* a series on this! I adore auctions and follow Christie’s on twitter just to dream shop.

Meaghano (#529)

@andnowlights Yes! I want to know more about this crazy world. meaghan@thebillfold if anyone wants to write about it :)

Beans (#1,111)

The best part of that article was the reference to the Christie’s VP whose name is Capuchine. (this is a capuchine: http://blackpegion.webs.com/Capuchine%28black%29Pigeon.jpg)

Nibbler (#5,331)

@Beans I hope Capu was wearing a dress exactly like that. Fabulous.

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