This month Phillips de Pury & Company launched a new kind of contemporary art auction, one in which a single major player in the art market was invited to create the sale of his dreams. The player was Philippe Segalot, an art consultant and private dealer who persuaded sellers to consign 33 works to the “Carte Blanche” auction, a title The Economist says “is a reminder of the art market's lack of regulation”.
Segalot says: “I have always been interested in the concept of curated sales, where the artworks are selected not for their market value but for their artistic quality, historical importance and coherence within the group. Here I tried to push the idea further by bringing together a small collection of my favourite works by my favourite artists. The result is a true self-portrait, a close representation of my life as an art lover, an art collector and an art advisor.”
The auction was certainly distinctive. The Economist reports that on a number of lots Segalot was seen to be bidding against his assistant and his business partner, all of whom would have been representing collectors. Asked whether acting for buyers as well as sellers on the same lot might constitute a conflict of interest, Segalot insisted it was not a problem.
Financial guarantees were also back in the mix with 7 of the lots in “Carte Blanche” being secured by irrevocable bids from anonymous third party investors. This practice, which was widespread before the global financial crisis, ensures that works sell for a minimum price with the investor taking a larger cut of the price if it exceeds the guarantee.
The so-called ground-breaking “Carte Blanche” series will continue with other sales to be curated by artists, collectors, curators or gallery owners. You can read The Economist article here and another on Segalot's favourite works here.
Image: Thomas Schutte's Grosse Geist No. 16 (2000), one of the lots in the “Carte Blanche” auction