The AAD (art-antiques-design.com) website has quite frankly, been publishing some of my “old blogs”, which somehow I find really refreshing. They make me think that this industry faces the same issues. However, I enjoy responding to some of the comments on my blog and making comments on other AAD blogs. There is as interaction on the challenges for the entire industry of dealers, auctioneers, museums, and of course the need of living with design for the public at large. It’s not 1stDibs, Artnet, or eBay, but it is interesting and relevant for participants who wish to comment on what is going on in these areas.
I’d like AAD to become a bully pulpit for anyone in the art, antiques and design fields. The three are and should be interconnected and operate seamlessly. My incessant call for auction and even industry regulation hopefully will get AAD’s readers attention. Their broader reach can give anyone an opportunity as a sounding board for their perspective or cause.
With this in mind, I found something from several years ago that I never published on my blog. I responded to an individual who had read my blog and had a bad experience with a New York auctioneer (not the first I have ever heard…). This person explained their situation with the auctioneer and then wrote:
“Do you know, by chance, about similar cases? Where should I address myself to (I live in Germany) , New York State Attorney? Consumer Affairs? Is there any special body in NY dealing with “misbehaviour” of auction houses?”
“Thank you for understanding why I despise both Sotheby’s and Christie’s, as they both created a classic duopoly that has no restraints. They deceive bidders with a secret reserve, and fix prices with a non-negotiable buyer’s premium along with a seller’s commission. Conflicts of interest and fraud are created at their whim.
It really comes as no surprise, and I think you have recognized where they put their biggest investment, the lawyers…
Remember, these two companies have withstood a class action of <strong>$½ billion</strong>. My friend, the only answer for them is government regulation, like a bank or insurance company. Nothing less will prevent a level playing field for all participants in a public auction.
As for advice, you have a battle that they have fought before and they usually will wear you down (like insurance companies). Perhaps Consumer Affairs in NYC might lend an ear. But fyi, Mayor Bloomberg’s wife sits on Sotheby’s board…
Good luck and I hope you can persevere.”