Art of the Chase: Inside Art Auctions


On this month’s podcast, we take a close look at art auctions – how they work, their place in the art market and the rules and regulations that confine/define them.  Auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s now regularly net tens and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars for a single work.  Christie’s recently sold Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi painting for $450 million, by far the highest price ever garnered by a piece of art at auction.  At the same time, much about the auction process remains secret.  The identity of the buyer and seller is often known only to the auction house, and the reserve price (below which an artwork will not be sold) is known by the auctioneer but not the bidders.  While the auctioneer may not sell a work of art below its reserve price, it can bid on the work below the reserve to get the auction going.  Steve and Katie discuss these issues and others having to do with regulation, transparency and potential conflicts, and welcome famous Sotheby’s auctioneer Oliver Barker to take us behind the scenes of a big auction.

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Bonus Episode: Berkshire Museum Update, Settlement Approved


Katie and Steve update listeners on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision approving the settlement reached between the Attorney General and the Berkshire Museum, which allows the Museum to sell 40 of its most valuable works of art through Sotheby’s with some (minor) conditions.  Katie and Steve go over the terms of the settlement and discuss their reservations about the form (if not substance) of this resolution.  Since the recording of this bonus episode, it has been reported that the yet to open Lucas Museum in Los Angeles will purchase the painting Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Norman Rockwell’s iconic masterpiece.  The rest of the works will be sold gradually at auction until a total of $55 million in proceeds is reached.

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Moral Rights in Street Art: The 5Pointz Story


On this month’s podcast we discuss the non-economic “moral rights” of artists in the context of the famous 5Pointz aerosol art mecca in Long Island City, Queens that was whitewashed and torn down in 2013.  In the ensuing litigation, the aerosol artists asserted violations of their moral rights under the Visual Artist Rights Act, the U.S. moral rights statute.  In a surprise to many, they recently won $6.7 million in damages after succeeding on these claims.  The art, however, was permanently lost.  Steve and Katie discuss the origin and contours of moral rights, how they fit into U.S. copyright law, the story of 5Pointz and the laws around street art and graffiti.  They are joined by famous aerosol artist Jonathan Cohen (Meres One), 5Pointz event planner and artist representative Marie Cecile Flageul, and Renee Vara, the artists’ expert in the 5Pointz trial.

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What Can Science Tell Us About Art?


On this month’s podcast we discuss the role of science in fine art.  Specifically, what can science tell us about a work of art’s origin and authenticity?  Can science help us discover fakes and forgeries undetected by traditional connoisseur style observation?  We are joined by the famous art scientist Jamie Martin to discuss these issues, recount famous forgery scandals, and delve into his techniques and practices.

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