This week in New York, Sotheby’s begins its four-part sale of about 500 works from the collection of Alfred A. Taubman, the collector and former chairman of the auction house who spent ten months in prison for his role in a 2001 price-fixing scheme between Sotheby’s and its rival Christie’s. Taubman died last April.
A recent article in Vanity Fair catalogs the endless squabbles between Taubman’s second wife, Judy Taubman, and his children from his first marriage (the children locked Judy out of the family’s London flat so Sotheby’s representatives could pick up two “worthless”—in the words of an anonymous friend of Judy’s—paintings valued at $300,000 each; Judy told the Daily Mail her stepchildren’s behavior was “pure evil,” etc.). The piece also includes details about Taubman’s messy relationship with Sotheby’s. The sale, which is valued “in excess of $500 million,” according to Sotheby’s, was negotiated by Taubman’s children Billy and Gayle (though not his son Bobby, who had a conflict of interest because of his job as a director at Sotheby’s). Most interesting is the following claim, which the reporter got from an anonymous source, a “major art-world player,” according to the article:
Sotheby’s had to ratchet up its initial $350 million guarantee to $500 million after it was informed the family had decided to give Christie’s the business. It is the largest guarantee in auction history.
The “player” goes on to say, “It’s going to be very hard for Sotheby’s to earn out that guarantee,” adding that the children “are so greedy that they were willing to do business with the people responsible for sending their father to jail.”
We’ll see! The auctions open November 4, and continue through January 27. Part one is a sale of Taubman’s “Masterworks” on Wednesday evening.