"GOING ONCE: A Memoir of Art, Society, and Charity" by Robert Woolley

"GOING ONCE: A Memoir of Art, Society, and Charity"

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With amiable chutzpah, the head of the decorative arts department at Sotheby's tells the story of his fabulous rise in the arts and society. ""Collecting at Sotheby's is the penultimate act,"" declares Woolley. After a brief post-college apprenticeship at A La Vieille Russie, the posh antiques store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, Woolley, then 24, was hired by Sotheby Parke Bernet to work in its furniture department. But at his first meeting with Peregrine Pollen, Peter Wilson, and Marcus Linnell--respectively president, chairman, and head of decorative arts at Sotheby's at that time--the young upstart began telling them what they were doing wrong. While working at A La Vieille Russie, Woolley had made a killing on Russian art from Sotheby's because the works were undervalued. He told them that they needed to auction specific artworks separately from an estate sale and to make sure that all the significant collectors knew about them. Somehow Woolley not only convinced them to schedule a sale on Russian art, he also was put in charge of the sale and was allowed to auctioneer it himself. Woolley proved himself to be not only knowledgeable but cool with the gavel and a natural ham. Soon he was being sent on buying trips to Russia. At 30 he was made senior vice president and head of decorative arts. That same year he met Jeffrey Childs, who became his longtime lover. Childs, however, continued to sleep with many other men. He contracted AIDS and died in 1987. Woolley put his auctioneering skills to good use by conducting ""fantasy auctions"" for AIDS charities and other causes. Now, at age 50, Woolley also has AIDS, about which he is pragmatic. ""The ultimate act, of course,"" he writes, ""is dying."" Refreshingly irreverent, Woolley lampoons his glittery world--and himself--with good humor and style.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster