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20 years ago, June 14, 1997

Evidence mounts for art market probe in the US

A report filed with the London Stock Exchange by Christie’s last week, disclosing that they had received a subpoena from the US department of Justice, confirmed rumours that a major enquiry into the US art market was under way.

‘Truckloads’ of documents are said to have been removed from Christie’s and Sotheby’s.


The so-called price-fixing scandal began here.

Following a three-year investigation, both major auction houses were charged by Justice Department with breaking the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. The penalties were huge. Christie’s and Sotheby’s agreed to shoulder equally a $512m settlement and senior figures were disgraced.

However, predictions that the case would lead to wholesale change in the auction and dealing landscape proved to be mere hyperbole.