Trade News from around the World
Tom Hays of the Associated Press reports that Christopher Davidge, former chief executive officer for Christie’s, admitted under cross-examination November 15 that he only agreed to testify after the auction house promised him $8 million in severance pay. Christie’s needed Davidge’s cooperation to seal an amnesty deal struck with prosecutors in the Manhattan trial of A. Alfred Taubman. Defense attorney Scott Muller suggested Davidge blackmailed Christie’s. He denied the allegations. Davidge, however, conceded that he expected Christie’s to pay the remainder of his severance package – what Muller called “a $3 million carrot” – for testifying in federal court. The witness also admitted initially lying to lawyers about what he knew about the alleged plot to cheat auction house customers. In direct testimony, Davidge recalled a series of secret meetings in 1993 at which he and his counterpart at Sotheby’s took steps to eliminate discounts and fix commissions. He claimed the meetings were ordered by his boss, Anthony Tennant, and Taubman. Tennant told him the auction house rivalry had taken on “a level of competition that was unnecessary,” Davidge said.
On November 19, Diana D. Brooks, Sotheby’s former chief executive, took the stand in what Ralph Blumenthal and Carol Vogel of The New York Times describe as “the most dramatic confrontation to date” in the trial against Taubman. According to Blumenthal and Vogel, Brooks “said that Mr. Taubman directed her to meet her counterpart at Christie’s to set up a joint schedule of higher prices and coordinate other business practices and that he congratulated her when the scheme was carried out.” Brooks testified to secret meetings with Davidge at the Four Seasons Hotel and her car, where, with Taubman’s knowledge and approval, they exchanged client lists and discussed terms and specific sales, including Christie’s offering of Princess Salimah Aga Kahn’s jewelry in 1994.
“The American Association of Museums issued a set of guidelines [on November 17] and asked its members to follow them,” writes Irvin Molotsky this week in the Times. “The guidelines counseled museums to avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts, to be as open as possible in their dealings and to carefully consider the appropriateness of accepting contributions from donors with a private commercial interest in public displays of art.” While the association did not cite specific examples, Molotsky named the National Museum of American History’s acceptance of $38 million from Catherine Reynolds, roundly criticized by curators at the Smithsonian, as perhaps one of the inspirations for the association’s actions.
New York City art dealers Shirley D. Sack, 73, and Arnold Katzen, 62, were indicted November 13 for allegedly conspiring to use works of art to launder $4.1 million in drug funds, AP reports. The pair had been arrested at the Ritz Carlton in Boston in May after federal agents raided an alleged secret sale of two paintings. Prosecutors also charged Alan M. Stewart, 75, of Stamford, Conn. with having knowledge of the scheme. Stewart allegedly acted as a broker to set up the money laundering transaction. The art works, which were seized by the government from Katzen, were said to be an original oil painting entitled “Jeune Femme aux Yeux Bleus” by Amedeo Modigliani, valued at approximately $2.5 million, and an original pastel entitled “La Coiffure” by Edgar Degas, valued at approximately $1.6 million.
AP’s Richard Lewis writes that under a proposal unanimously supported by the West Greenwich Town Council on November 14, a 225-year-old original copy of the Declaration of Independence will be returned to Rhode Island by Christie’s auction house. It will be displayed temporarily at the Statehouse and moved to the Heritage Harbor Museum in Providence when it opens. The town will own the document. Preserve Rhode Island, the organization that wants to sell the parchment, would be paid $200,000 raised through fund-raising by Secretary of State Edward Inman, who brokered the deal. The council’s approval ends a two-year tug-of-war over the document, one of 28 commissioned in 1776 by the state legislature for each city and town in the state. Only six of the prized parchments remain. Others are housed in libraries at Harvard and Brown universities, in Portsmouth, Pawtucket (North Providence’s copy) and at the Rhode Island Historical Society in Providence.
Israel Sack’s inventory is going to auction at Sotheby’s on January 20, 2002, “but the firm is definitely not going out of business,” writes our own R. Scudder Smith. The sale will have its own catalog, with a brief history of this well-known firm. It is certain to become an important event during Antiques Week In New York. “It is time to restructure,” Albert Sack said last week, and “we are doing just that.”
The Jersey City Museum, New Jersey, has appointed Marion Grzesiak as the museum’s new executive director. She will take office at the end of November. Most recently, Grzesiak was Director of Fraunces Tavern Museum in New York City. Prior to that, she was Executive Director of the New Jersey Chamber Music Society, based in Montclair, N.J., and director of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum and Gardens in Morristown, N.J.
PBA Galleries, San Francisco, Cal., has appointed Jay S. Zalewski as its new president and COO. His promotion comes almost exactly one year after he joined the PBA team. In his new capacity, Zalewski will oversee the company’s mission to become the leading North American auction house specializing in rare books and manuscripts,
A foundation established by a philanthropist and heir of a Steelcase Inc. founder has donated $20 million toward the construction of a new, $50 million home for Michigan’s Grand Rapids Art Museum. “I want to create the best community in the country,” Peter Wege, who also is a retired executive of Grand Rapids-based Steelcase, the nation’s largest office furniture maker, told the Associated Press. “We’ll have one of the finest museums in the country.”
The Bruce Museum of Arts and Sciences, Greenwich, Conn., has received a major donation from Charles M. Royce that will enable it to do advance planning and to have interim funding for upcoming exhibitions. Over the next five years, Royce is making available a revolving fund of $1 million to the museum. The fund will provide the museum with the financial flexibility to initiate and secure traveling exhibitions, to negotiate loans and to retain the services of authors and scholars.
The Heard Museum, Phoenix, Ariz., has acquired the American flag textile woven by Sadie Curtis, Navajo, to commemorate the 1976 Bicentennial. The flag will remain on display in the museum’s introductory exhibit gallery for an indefinite period of time.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has begun a long-term institutional partnership with the Stark Museum of Art, located in Orange, Tex. This partnership will enable the MFAH to bring to Houston some of the key works from the Stark’s collections in a series of rotating exhibitions. On view through April 21 in the Audrey Jones Beck Building is the first in this series, “Paintings of Native America from the Stark Museum of Art.”