Art Dealer Sells at Top of Bubble, Then Does Something Strange
Selling at the top of a bubble is fantastic ... if you can pull it off. You look, feel and live like an absolute genius. Former art dealer Anthony d'Offay did this, unloading 725 postwar and contemporary pieces before the art market collapsed, dragged down by a global financial crisis. Timing is everything, and the collection purchased for a mere £26.5 million was valued at an astounding £125 million. Included were Jeff Koons' "Winter Bears," an Andy Warhol hamburger (evidently more expensive than those at Burger Joint) and an Anselm Kiefer palm tree.
Rather than sell the collection at a profit of close to £100 million, he sold them to the United Kingdom at cost: £26.5 million. Instead of taking the money, d'Offay chose to be paid with strings ... namely those attached to the deal. The condition of his sale was that the country had to send the artwork on tour throughout the UK, making it easy for people under age 18 to access the art.
D'Offay explains that financial constraints on British museums – which are free and thus have no money with which to acquire new pieces – are great for the people, but not for keeping the walls full with fresh material. On the list for the future is a special room for Damien Hirst's "Pharmacy" installation and has already purchased Hirst's "Painkillers" piece (pill cabinet) for $877,000. In a deal with Hirst, he also picked up work by Koons, and Hirst's new "Necromancer." Hirst was d'Offay's gallery assistant as he was finishing college.
D'Offay's talent, he says, is buying art, rather than curating or creating. He became inspired as a child in northern England when viewing a collection of Francis Bacon (shocking, right? Bacon connection comes back again ...).