Agent of the Deal

The prominent art dealer Larry Gagosian made headlines in 2012 when he told a courtroom that he represented the deal, not the buyer or seller.  

Roy Lichtenstein, The Ring (Engagement), oil on canvas, signed and dated ‘62 verso, 48 1/4 x 70 inches

Mr. Gagosian had been accused by a collector of working both sides of a sale when he sold the 1964 Roy Lichtenstein painting, “Girl in Mirror,” on consignment for $2 million and took a $1 million commission.  A few years prior the painting had sold for $4 million at Sotheby’s, so the discrepancy raised eyebrows.

Many were shocked when he was forthright in describing his role in art sales, saying "It’s a financial transaction, and the seller wants to get paid. My objective is to pay the seller and to make a profit for the gallery.”

Mr. Gagosian’s comments were met with shock by those who assumed a dealer has a professional obligation to act in the client’s best interests.  But those experienced in the art industry know this is the norm, not the exception.

Without doubt, an art dealer is incentivized to price art to sell.  A dealer's financial discussions with buyers and sellers are less about value, and more about action.  

It’s not to say that art dealers don’t play a crucial role, they do.  They perform a necessary function of connecting buyers and sellers — many of whom are indeed interested in completing transactions.  

But, it seems to us there’s no reason this important role can’t be performed with more transparency.  Independent Real Time Valuations from ARTBnk allow decisions to be made free of bias.

And when buyers and sellers are well-informed, they’re more confident and willing to finalize a sale.   

That’s good for deals, and their agents.