NEW YORK—On April 1, Phillips de Pury & Company won the right in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to sell 96 works of fine and decorative art belonging to Internet entrepreneur and art collector Halsey Minor. Moving quickly after the April 1 decision, the auction house announced it will hold a single-owner sale in New York on May 13. Proceeds of the sale will go to pay back loans made in 2007 by Merrill Lynch Private Finance (which was taken over by Bank of America in 2008) totaling more than $25million. Bank of America sued Minor last year, after he attempted to consign the artworks, which were collateral for the loans, to Christie’s.
Among the works in the upcoming sale are two pieces by John Baldessari: Pink Pig, 2305 Highland Ave., National City, Calif., 1996, an acrylic on canvas estimated at $400,000/600,000, and Two Cars, One Red, in Different Environments, 1990, a painted color photograph estimated at $300,000/400,000. Po + Ku Surrealism Mr. Dob, 1996, an acrylic on panel by Takashi Murakami, is estimated at $1million/1.5million, and Jellyfish Eyes–Max & Shimon in the Strange Forest, 2004, another acrylic by the artist, carries an estimate of $400,000/600,000. The sale will also include two acrylics on canvas by Richard Prince—Nurse in Hollywood #4, 2004, estimated at $5million/7million, and Chatterbox Hotel, 1990, estimated at $800,000/1.2million—as well as two oil paintings by Ed Ruscha, Higher Standards/Lower Prices, 2007 (estimate: $1.5 million/2.5 million), and Angry Because It’s Plaster, Not Milk, 1965 (estimate: $2million/3million), and a prototype “Lockheed Lounge” by Marc Newson (estimate: $1million/1.5million). Phillips’s sale of design on June 9 will feature 13 works from the Minor collection, seven of them by Newson, including a “Micarta” desk, 2006 (estimate: $120,000/180,000).
Bank of America supported Minor’s request to bring the artworks to an auction house for the sale, “as opposed to the Marshal selling the property,” in order to maximize the proceeds of any sale. Minor specifically asked for the appointment of Phillips as receiver instead of Christie’s because of what he said was a more advantageous consignment agreement Phillips offered. According to a statement submitted by Minor to the district court, Phillips agreed to pay “108% of the final bid price of all property sold.” The consignment agreement provides a combined low estimate for the works of more than $22.5million, which means that even if the works only sell for the low estimates the proceeds would be more than $24million, “which is more than sufficient” to pay off the loans. According to the statement, the bank also “will receive the money sooner than if the property is sold by Christie’s.” In contrast, Christie’s only agreed to pay 100 percent of the final bid price and provided a combined low estimate of $17million. The Minor artworks will be shown at Phillips’s exhibition and sales space at 450 West 15th Street in Manhattan May 1–13.
In the last two years, Minor filed lawsuits in New York and California against Sotheby’s and Christie’s for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, and Sotheby’s sued him for failing to pay for lots on which he was the highest bidder. Minor has denied having financial problems. According to press reports he is being sued by Silverton Bank, Atlanta, for failing to make payments of $10.5million on a $23.7million loan for the purchase and as-yet-uncompleted renovation of a hotel in Williamsburg, Va., and last year his 205-acre ranch near Charlottesville, Va., was foreclosed on.
In late 2008, Minor filed a lawsuit against Sotheby’s alleging that it failed to disclose a loan it made to the consignor of a painting by Edward Hicks (1780–1849), The Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity, which Minor won for $9.67million at the house’s sale of American art in May of that year. In January of last year, however, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco dismissed Minor’s lawsuit against Sotheby’s after a judge ruled that the action was “duplicative” of a similar case filed by Sotheby’s against Minor in New York under the “first to file” rule that governs competing lawsuits (ANL, 10/14/08). The court granted Sotheby’s motion to dismiss the complaint in California, noting, however, that it did so “without prejudice to Minor’s pursuing his claims against Sotheby’s in the New York action.”