I have felt a personal sense of consent after I read Souren Melikian’s article on “Navigating a Shrinking Art Market” in the October issue of Art + Auction Magazine. His commentary has taken on the conventional thinking about the industry and fashioned the reality of how it operates under the overextended auction duopoly.
I decided to write the Editor of the magazine a note on the article. Perhaps after you read my letter and read the article, you will understand that our industry is going to be changing in ways we never thought imaginable.
This article represents a watershed in your publication’s acknowledging the corrupt and deceptive practices of the Sotheby’s/Christie’s duopoly, which have become so generally accepted by the trade and public. Mr. Melikian has broken from his usual commentary on items sold at auction to the critical issues of the process of how they are sold.
Since the implementation of the buyer’s premium back in the mid 1970’s, the art and antiques trade has allowed these two firms to impose their methods with impunity. Their conviction on collusion was simply an expensive slap on the wrist, and resulted in a consolidation of their ability to enforce and expand their control of this industry. New, creative deceptions like the “irrevocable bid” come to mind as a product of this attitude.
I look forward to reading Mr. Melikian’s second part of his article on his perspective of the evolution of the art market. His call for a legislative initiative to ban these questionable procedures is a bold and necessary step. The New York State legislature several years ago attempted to deal with the chandelier/secret reserve deception. Now is the time to accelerate this movement to clean up so many questionable practices in this industry.