More details have emerged regarding the ‘breach-of-contract’ lawsuit which claims that Christie’s backed out of a $40m guarantee made to secure a Francis Bacon self-portrait for sale.
The complaint, filed by the Connecticut collector George A.
Weiss with the United States Southern District Court of New York on
April 3, details the remarkable deals available to owners of major
works of art.
As reported in ATG No 1886, April 18, the complaint contends
that during the consignment process in July 2008, Sotheby's and
Christie's made competing offers to sell Francis Bacon's 1964
Study for Self Portrait No. 1.
Christie's sent in their biggest guns to win the picture:
honorary chairman Christopher Burge, president Marc Porter, and top
20th century picture specialists Laura Paulson, Brett Gorvy and Guy
Bennett. They proposed two options. Option one comprised a
$40million guaranteed minimum price to the seller, plus 103 per
cent of the hammer price should the picture sell for more than
$40m. In the event that the picture brought over $50m this
'enhanced hammer premium' would cease and any further proceeds
would be split 90-10 between the seller and the auctioneer.
The more straightforward option two offered the seller 108 per
cent of the sale price (Christie's would make their money on only a
portion of the buyer's premium) but gave no minimum price
Christie's took delivery of the painting after Weiss had chosen
their offer of a $40m guarantee with additional monies should
bidding go higher.
The complaint says the final version of the contract was
delivered to Christie's on September 23 but that the next day
Christie's informed the Weiss Family Art Trust that the $40 million
guarantee could not be honoured because of the changed climate of
the art market.
When the Bacon was offered at Christie's Post War and
Contemporary Art sale in New York last November it failed to
The trust claims that "Christie's reneged upon the minimum price
guarantee" and is suing for the $40m it says it was promised, plus
interest. A statement from Christie's stated: "Christie's has much
respect for Mr. Weiss as a collector, philanthropist and
businessman. Unfortunately, we disagree with his position in this
By Roland Arkell