AUCTION MAGIC FROM EXPERT CHEYENNE WESTPHAL, INTERNATIONAL CHAIR SOTHEBY’S

by leslierankowfinearts

CHEYENNE WESTPHAL, AS INTERNATIONAL CHAIR OF CONTEMPORARY EUROPE AT SOTHEBY’S,  CONTINUES TO SHARE HER KNOWLEDGE  OF THE AUCTION WORLD.

WE HAD A GREAT DEAL OF MARVELOUS MATERIAL  THIS NOVEMBER SEASON WITH THE OUTSTANDING GROUP OF GERHARD RICHTER PAINTINGS FROM A SINGLE OWNER AND THE CLYFFORD STILLS. IN THIS INFORMATION AGE , HOW OFTEN DOES “AUCTION MAGIC” ACTUALLY OCCUR?

It is harder and harder but it does happen. The Duerckheim Collection that included exceptional examples by Polke, Richter, and Baselitz that sold in London last June is a recent example. The owner, chairman of a pharmaceutical empire, had withdrawn himself from the art market. He began collecting these works in the Sixties and he purchased the last work in 1986. He never loaned any of the works for exhibitions, the works were warehoused and not on display in his home, he never responded to any inquiries about the works or answered any requests for information for catalogue raisonnes on the artists. They were never seen and only illustrated in black and white.

HOW DID YOU BRING IN THE COLLECTION TO SOTHEBY’S? DID YOU HAVE TO COMPETE WITH THE OTHER AUCTION HOUSE?

Some time ago, I found his name in a catalogue and had written to him. When he sold his wine cellar, he contacted Sotheby’s. I was only twenty-six at the time. The specialist in the wine department insisted I accompany him ro see the wine cellar. The collector is very charming and we stayed in touch casually over the years.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF SELLING AT AUCTION RATHER THAN PRIVATELY?

We reach a global client base. There is a fixed date and time of sale and that triggers a decision in a way that doesn’t happen when a work is offered privately. The auction is a finite moment, sometimes less than a minute for a lot to sell. It puts pressure on the buyer. If he doesn’t do it, someone else will.

A work at auction receives incredibly high visibility and that is far-reaching and continually growing.

CHEYENNE WILL NEXT GIVE US HER INPUT ON THE BUYER PROFILE IN THE CURRENT MARKET. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS, I WOULD WELCOME THEM.

THANKS, LESLIE