Life in a jewel box with Courtney Kremers, Sotheby’s VP and Contemporary Art Specialist
THE COLLECTION OF DAVID TEIGER, A MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT AND FORMER TRUSTEE OF THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, WAS SOLD AT SOTHEBY’S STARTING IN LONDON LAST OCTOBER DURING FRIEZE WEEK. THE COMPETITION BETWEEN THE AUCTION HOUSES VYING FOR SUCH A SUPERB, VARIED AND LEGENDARY COLLECTION MUST HAVE BEEN FIERCE BUT SOTHEBY’S MARKETING STRATEGY WON THE DAY. TITLED “THE HISTORY OF NOW”, THE COLLECTION FEATURED EXCEPTIONAL EXAMPLES OF MODERN, FOLK AND CONTEMPORARY ART, FEATURING EXCEPTIONAL EXAMPLES BY SUCH ARTISTS AS JASPER JOHNS, DAVID HOCKNEY, JOHN CURRIN, PETER DOIG AND MARK GROTJAHN IN A SERIES OF TEN TARGETED SALES WORLDWIDE.
DAVID TEIGER CREATED A LIST OF PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE HIM IN HIS COLLECTING. SOTHEBY’S ADVOCATED THE SAME FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION IN ITS MARKETING AND SELLING OF IT: TRAVELING WORKS TO MANY CITIES, THREE IN ASIA ALONE; RESEARCHING, DOCUMENTING AND CATALOGUING EACH LOT; SELECTING THE VENUE THAT WOULD BEST SERVE EACH WORK OF ART, RESULTING IN AN OVERALL TOTAL OF MORE THAN $100 MILLION.
THE HARD WORK, DEDICATION AND KNOWLEDGE OF WORKS OF ART AND OF THE ART MARKET REQUIRED FOR THE SALE OF THE TEIGER COLLECTION IS JUST ONE EXAMPLE OF THE VIRTUALLY DAILY DEMANDS ON SPECIALISTS IN A TOP AUCTION HOUSE. CONSISTENTLY PLEASANT, CHEERFUL AND POLITE TO EACH AND EVERY DEMANDING COLLECTOR AND ADVISOR IS ANOTHER REQUISITE.
TODAY, THE LRFA BLOG IS DELIGHTED TO WELCOME BACK COURTNEY KREMERS, SENIOR VP AND CONTEMPORARY ART SPECIALIST, TO SPEAK FIRST HAND OF HER SOTHEBY EXPERIENCE.
WHEN DID YOU START AT SOTHEBY’S AND WHAT PROMPTED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN AN AUCTION HOUSE? CUSTOMARILY, MANY PEOPLE START AT AN AUCTION HOUSE AND THEN GO ON TO WORK AS A DEALER OR ADVISOR?
Yes I did it backwards. But I am so thankful I did. I was able to understand the ecosystem that the auction house serves by first being a part of that ecosystem. Sotheby’s approached me about an opportunity to revamp their mid season sales in early 2013; that fall, we introduced the Contemporary Curated sales. It was an exciting new challenge, and when I left Kim to pursue it, she couldn’t have been more supportive.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT WORKING IN AN AUCTION HOUSE?
I am surrounded every day by people that love what they do. My colleagues, both in and outside the Contemporary department, are some of the most passionate, inspiring, and hard-working people that I have ever encountered. The energy is contagious. Not to mention the thousands of objects I get to see, handle, basically live with, every year. And not just Contemporary works… Our office is a rotating museum of Old Master paintings, jewels, photographs, Japanese scrolls, the most beautiful mid-century design objects. I spend most of my waking life in a jewel box essentially. It is a privilege to work at Sotheby’s, so I try to earn it every day.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MAJOR AUCTIONS OR SINGLE OWNER SALES OR SPECIFIC LOTS THAT STAND OUT AS HIGHLIGHTS DURING YOUR TIME AT SOTHEBY’S?
The Joni Gordon Sale in 2014 – we sold a rare Vija Celmin’s plane painting (now on view in the SFMoMA show) and achieved a record price for the artist. In 2017, the sale of works from the Collection of Ed Cohen and Victoria Shaw which included the most breathtaking works on paper by Anselm Kiefer, Michael Andrews, and Brice Marden… These weren’t the most high value consignments, or the biggest single owner sales in recent years, but the works were rare connoisseurs’ gems.
HOW DOES S/2, SOTHEBY’S GALLERY, WORK IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE SALES DEPARTMENT? HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT THE BEST VENUE WHEN ADVISING A CLIENT INTERESTED IN SELLING A WORK THEY OWN?
Simply stated, when advising collectors regarding auction versus private sale, we need to understand what it is that they value most. For some, privacy and control of the sale process is paramount, and so private sale would be our recommendation. For others, the auction platform, which can present a unique opportunity for upside at a particular moment, is more appealing. With that said, every conversation is highly circumstantial and takes into account any number of factors. One that comes up frequently is depth of an artist’s market in relation to works currently consigned for an auction season (e.g. if we have four Calder mobiles already consigned for auction, we are likely not going to recommend adding a fifth).
HOW FAR IN ADVANCE DO YOU WORK ON A FORTHCOMING AUCTION? DO YOU HAVE A FEW LOTS THAT COME IN THAT ANCHOR A SALE AND THEN SEEK OUT WORKS COLLECTORS MIGHT HAVE THAT WOULD COMPLEMENT THE SALE AND BE ENHANCED BY EXISTING LOTS?
Yes – you nailed it. We generally work on sales six months in advance, but naturally the intensity ramps up about two months out. Roughly half of the sale comes in from collectors who reach out to us directly. The other half we seek out proactively. Based on what has come into the sale in the first few months, we seek out artists and periods that we don’t yet have. We start to create ‘wish lists’ that we work from. If we are a month away from deadline and see that we don’t have a great Joan Mitchell or Donald Judd, we will go out and try to find one. Our wish list changes a bit every season depending on what we know collectors are looking for, and also, opportunities we may see to tell a particular story in an auction season. We look at the ingredients on the table, and then figure out how to make a well balanced meal!
IN OUR NEXT LRFA BLOG POST, COURTNEY WILL SHARE HER PERSPECTIVE ON SOTHEBY’S PRESENT AND FUTURE.
PLEASE JOIN US!
AND HAVE A HAPPY AND LONG-AWAITED MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!