The Auctioneer: A Memoir of Great Art, Legendary Collectors and Record-breaking Auctions by Simon de Pury with William Stadiem; An Auctioneer's Lot: Triumphs and Disasters at Christie's by Charles Hindlip - review by Edward Behrens

Edward Behrens

Going Once, Going Twice

The Auctioneer: A Memoir of Great Art, Legendary Collectors and Record-breaking Auctions

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Allen & Unwin 312pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

An Auctioneer's Lot: Triumphs and Disasters at Christie's

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Third Millenium 256pp £30 order from our bookshop
 

In the 19th century, the Great Room at Christie’s operated as a quasi-national gallery. For the educated public, the works that passed through the doors of the auction house offered a rare opportunity to come face to face with old masters. The perfume of snobbery and money that seems such a bar to entry to auction houses today (though in fact they welcome every-one) is a relatively recent development. How this came about is, in some senses, the subject of both Simon de Pury’s The Auctioneer and Charles Hindlip’s An Auctioneer’s Lot. Both purport to be autobiographies, but the stories they tell is also the story of the art market.

In the 1980s, newspaper editors got excited about £1 million being spent at auction. Now it’s a hundred times that. If you believe de Pury, the way this came to pass is down to Peter Wilson, head of Sotheby’s from 1957 to 1979, though de Pury, naturally, had a

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