A damning story of dirty dealing in the art world.
In the early 1980s, the auction house Sotheby’s was in trouble, with a faltering economy and its chairman’s profligacy threatening to bring the venerable institution to its knees. Enter shopping-mall magnate Alfred Taubman, who appreciated the gloss Sotheby’s would add to his resume and the swell parties he would be able to attend. It didn’t take long for Taubman to realize that business could be conducted more profitably if certain niceties were observed—namely, agreeing with fellow auctioneer Christie’s upon buyer’s premiums and commission rates “mutually beneficial to both firms.” There follows, in Mason's fair reporting, a tale of “divvying up big estates on a one-for-me, one-for-you basis,” attempting to ensure that all lots at auction commanded the highest possible price. British law and American law clashed over what exactly constituted collusion, but a Christie’s executive squealed, quailing at the prospect of besmirching his name, let alone jail time. The whole rotten edifice crumbled, as Mason intricately details. Suddenly, what was thought to be the ultimate in fair bidding became a joke, revealing “a deceitful, secretive criminal scheme whose object and purpose was illegal profit.” (Though fabulously rich clients wanting to “deaccession a few major pieces” may not prompt excessive amounts of reader sympathy.) The defendants didn’t even demonstrate a measure of contrition: “Blinded by ambition, you substituted shame for fame,” the judge lectured Sotheby’s chief Diana Brooks, who in his view traded her title of CEO “to be branded a thief and common criminal.” Taubman skipped with minor punishment, and Mason baldly suggests that connections served him both on the way up and on the way down.
Journalist Mason calls into question exactly what drives the art market at so breathtakingly profitable a pace.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)