Sotheby’s and Christie’s – Are They in Conflict of Intrests with the Natural Art Market? – part 2

I would like to reiterate my ‘warning’ posted at part 1 of the article: this is an unusual rant/rave article, that nonetheless gives an insight in the functioning of the art market. I therefore consider it relevant for publication. Personally I am neutral in the conflict. Further, this situation is now a few years old, and I will follow this article up with up-to-date information, when possible.

Continuation of part 1 of the article by Gerard Van Weyenbergh:

My investor, is in love with the painting, but still wants to have Sotheby’s and Christie’s opinion about the value of this painting. The response came rapidly: they will not accept this painting for their auctions, because it is not in the Ceroni archives as a first response, and as a second response when they find out that the painting is repertoried in the archives, because it is not illustrated in the Ceroni catalogue!. Other ways they are saying that the painting is maybe a fake? They didn’t say this but what must the investor think?

The painting is under suspicion! Because the staff from Sotheby’s and Christie’s in charge of the Modern and Impressionist art have cold feet or they don’t have enough experience or are they just trying to have the investor buy their own products, where, of course, at this rate they will make a profit of $ 1.6 million if my investor buys from them a similar value painting? This will stay without response.

What is evident: is the fact that this painting exhibited in so many museums, repertoried everywhere, seen by millions of people , a painting that was chosen by eminent curators as a jewel of Modigliani’s art to be part of their so difficult to assemble paintings exhibitions.

It is evident that Sotheby’s and Christie’s are killing an artwork of major importance , and gave it a “ suspicious “ label for their own reason, that I will qualify as financial interests reasons. My investor didn’t buy the painting and it went back to Europe..I didn’t make any commission for a very difficult work that took me several months and cost me a serious amount of $ in insurance to ship the painting to the USA.

I conclude that if you have some very important art, with all the certificates you want, with the best provenance possible, you may be highly disillusioned if you want to sell that major art work you thought has so much value only because of Sotheby’s and Christie’s may decide it so!

For me this is manifestly a conflict of interests in the art business. An auction house is where you sell your art at the highest bidder, the managers should not interfere in the authentication process by taking a position as negative as they did in this case. I mentioned each time Sotheby’s and Christie’s at the same time, even if my investor was working with one of them, but through personal verification I find out that they are working under a same umbrella, so they did in the past so commented here in articles I find on the web:

The Art of the Steal: Inside the Sotheby’s-Christie’s Auction House Scandal

2000: Sotheby’s and Al Taubman. The world’s elite were ripped off by years of price-fixing on the part of those supposed bitter competitors, auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Sotheby’s chairman, Taubman, was found guilty of conspiracy last year. He is yet to be sentenced

US charges NYC Gallery owner in multi-million $ global scheme to sell real masterworks and forged copies, this is a US Gov. website.
(Prior source article: is now archived)

Top auction houses sell looted art, claims Howells Kim howells, the culture minister, is accusing Britain’s leading auction houses of trading in looted antiquities and demanding that they do more to ensure the provenance of objects they sell. Mr Howells, who caused uproar last week when he accused American film stars of being too “terrified” to fly to Europe, has now infuriated British auctioneers and art dealers with a suggestion that they could be supporting the trade in stolen goods.

The Great $50 Million Art Swindle Another evidence of conflict of interests: Auction house loans money to art dealer!

From Library Journal
The sometimes shady world of the international art market has become a popular subject for writers and television reporters. Stolen treasures, smuggled antiquities, and the seemingly endless cultural atrocities of World War II have been covered in a spate of recent works. Watson, a journalist and author of the art-crime work The Caravaggio Conspiracy (LJ 2/1/84), here turns the harsh light of publicity on the elite auction rooms of Sotheby’s. Using information from a former Sotheby’s employee and the familiar, if sometimes distasteful tactics of investigative reporting, Watson builds a case that the auction house has systemically abetted the transportation of
antiquities and Old Masters in contravention of various national and international laws.

Sotheby’s:: The Inside Story

Be on Your Avant-Garde! A complete collection sold is fake?
(Prior source article: is now archived)

Former leaders of Christie’s and Sotheby’s were indicted
for auction price-fixing

A Fraud! Auction ‘Rivals’By Devin Leonard
Christie’s and Sotheby’s have always acted like mortal enemies whose well-bred staffs jockey for the next vault of impressionist oil paintings. Their top executives fuel that perception by trading polite insults as exquisitely wrought as a Cezanne still life. It turns out, however, that for the past eight years, the “grand old rivalry” between Christie’s and Sotheby’s has been a bit of a forgery. Only now is it igniting for real.
(Prior source article:,15114,371429,00.html is now archived)

More Woes for Sotheby’s; LO80 identified; LVMH Buys Tajan Auction House; State & Fed Crackdown on Internet Auction Fraud

Alfred Taubman Sentenced
(Prior source article: is now archived)

Van Gogh Sunflowers fake sold by Christie’s ?

Many other auctioneers, including Christie’s and Sotheby’s have sold such fakes on the market and though they cannot be suspected of having lent a hand to the fraud the competencies of their experts might at least be seriously challenged.
(Prior source article: is now archived)

My conclusion is very simple, Sotheby’s and Christie’s are manifestly in conflict of interests when they sell art work for their clients or when then analyze an artwork. Of course it is their freedom to accept or not to accept a Modigliani in their auctions. But my question will be : the paintings repertoried in the Ceroni are almost all sold, what will they do in the future?

No more selling Modigliani paintings? I doubt it. They will very rapidly find a solution to this and accept the many other authentic paintings by Modigliani hanging at this time in Museums or in vaults or on the walls of collectors and not repertoried in Mr. Ceroni’s catalogue raisonne.

The art world needs an “independent source of estimation “ like the auction house was supposed to be years ago.

Thank you to all the writers of these so interesting web pages mentioned in my links.”

By Gerard van Weyenbergh, who has spent the last 25 years working as an independent broker dealing with galleries throughout Europe. Working together with his son Arry Van Weyenbergh the two have been traveling extensively throughout the world, appraising and researching contemporary and old masters. Gerard is a recognized expert in 17th – 20th century European paintings , while Arry’s expertise: modern and international contemporary painters. Together their education includes art history degrees from- Ecole du Louvre, University of Montpellier and Ecole Saint Luc. With an extensive background in architecture Gerard’s vision in art incorporates the total aesthetics of art placement and environment for his client’s collections.


  1. I think with the internet artists will be able to publicize and sell their works through their own means. Still , the auction house plays a critical role in the leverage of artists works in the market. Values are intangible, so auction houses are inclined to have a serious hold on the sway of the currents.

    Ashley H*

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