Salander Auction Raises $2.1 Million, Third of Lots Goes Unsold
By Philip Boroff
June 10 (Bloomberg) — A painting of a kneeling Jesus attributed to the studio of El Greco sold for $386,500 at Christie’s International in New York, the top lot in a $2.1 million auction of European art and sculpture recovered from the gallery of disgraced art dealer Lawrence B. Salander.
The total yesterday fell short of the $2.3 million presale low estimate. More than a third of the art didn’t sell, which dealers and art consultants attributed as much to Salander’s habit of buying in bulk — indiscriminately, some say — as to European economic turbulence.
Salander, 61, who pleaded guilty in March to a $120 million art fraud, is free on $1 million bail. He could be sentenced to as much as 18 years in prison, Justice Michael Obus said then. He’s due to appear in court next on June 23. He didn’t attend the auction.
He had paid $262,400 for the studio of El Greco artwork, “The Agony in the Garden,” in 2005 at a Christie’s New York sale. It sold yesterday to a middle-aged man in a cerulean blue jacket.
“I don’t like to appear in the news,” the unidentified man said in accented English as he left the saleroom.
Proceeds from the 128 lots will benefit creditors of Salander-O’Reilly Galleries LLC, which declared bankruptcy in November 2007. As part of a settlement in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Donald Schupak, who formed an investment partnership with Salander to buy Renaissance art, received proceeds from many of the lots. He attended the sale, as did a half-dozen lawyers involved in the case, among the collectors and dealers.
Salander’s collapse followed a multiyear buying spree of homes, carpets, books and art, particularly from the Renaissance. He has said in court papers that the art was undervalued relative to contemporary works. Prosecutors said that Salander was trying to corner the market.
Yesterday a painting of the goddess Ceres with two naked nymphs went for $146,500. It was attributed to the studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens. An oil panel by Rubens himself, “An Allegory of Fortitude,” of Samson carrying two pillars, sold for $182,500.
As for the 47 unsold lots, “we regroup and figure out the best means of disposing of them,” said Alan M. Jacobs, the trustee of the liquidation.
Last month, Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York, sold about $470,000 of furniture, carpets and decorative arts from the dealer’s six-story Upper East Side townhouse, near the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
And last week, the townhouse sold for “just under” $14 million, said Lydia Rosengarten of Leslie J. Garfield & Co. The asking price was $14.25 million. Rosengarten declined to disclose the buyer. Proceeds went to First Republic Bank, a creditor.
Salander paid $154,000 per month to rent the 21,000-square- foot limestone mansion that housed Salander-O’Reilly, a block from the Frick Collection. Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding LLC has it listed for sale with Sotheby’s International Realty for $59 million. The broker, Serena Boardman, didn’t return a call for comment.
Salander has been working at Phoenix Art, a gallery in Millbrook, New York, near the 66-acre property where he lived with his family. The home is listed for $4.5 million, as part of his personal-bankruptcy case. On June 23, a sale is scheduled at the property to benefit creditors of that case. Featured are a mower, snowmobile, gym equipment and other items he owned in happier times.
To contact the reporter on this story: Philip Boroff in New York at pbor…@bloomberg.net.
Last Updated: June 10, 2010 00:01 EDT