Oz Art Auction Crisis – artmarketblog.com
A report into the questionable conduct of some of Australia’s top art dealers and auction houses by the current affairs program Four Corners has led to a formal complaint being made regarding the practices of Australia’s top art auction house. Rodney Menzies of Australia’s leading art auction house, Deutscher Menzies, has been accused of inadequate disclosure in relation to minimum price guarantees given to the owners of works being sold through the auction house. Also part of the complaint are allegations of unethical practices relating to the sale of works of art through his own auction house that Mr. Menzies either owns or has part ownership in as part of a syndicate. These unethical practices include instances in which Mr. Menzies has allegedly sold works that he owns through his auction house and then purchased that work through, or as part of, an entity that he either wholly owns or partly owns for the purposes of creating better results for his auction house.
The complaint has been made against Mr. Menzies by several rival art auction houses who are of the opinion that this lack of disclosure and misleading conduct have resulted in inflated prices and misleadingly positive perception of the performance of his auction house and the art market as a whole. Several examples of this misleading conduct are available on the Four Corners website including the example below which indicates that Mr. Menzies purchased a work outright that he had himself consigned to the auction as part of a syndicate of owners.
“Arthur Boyd’s Death of a Husband
This picture was consigned to the August 2000 DM sale and sold to private buyer who consigned it to the DM September 2004 sale and was purchased by a partnership syndicate (including Mr. Menzies as a partnership member), the picture was subsequently consigned to the LM February 2007 LM sale and 100% ownership of the picture was purchased by Mr. Menzies. Mr. Menzies consigned the picture to the DM June 2008 sale and it was sold to a private buyer.”
Misleading conduct by art auction houses and art dealers is a very serious matter that is putting the future of the art market at risk for what can only be considered as opportunistic greed. If these art dealers and auction houses participating in questionable practices had any brains they would be trying to ensure the longevity of the art market boom instead of using inflationary tactics to make more money faster.
View program on Australian art market here:
Image: Owner of Menzies Art Brands, Rod Menzies, with a painting by Brett Whiteley titled “Olgas”
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications