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tales of brave 

sotheby's and emmerich's 
new adventure

by Stewart Waltzer

The wily Odysseus has struck home. André 

Emmerich has managed to sell his gallery to 

Sotheby's, as is noted in the report here 

by my colleague Judd Tully [see "To Market, 

To Market" in our News department]. Emmerich 

will retain his inventory and no doubt 

control the gallery but the question 

remains, why did the all-powerful gods of 

art bring succor in his hour of need?

Let's face it, you don't go to the auctions 

to buy wholesale anymore. For two reasons: 

the auction houses are leading the retail 

prices in the Impressionist-Modern market, 

and the galleries have not yet recovered 

from the market hernia of 1990-91. There is 

no retail market as we used to know it.

Furthermore, not every lot at auction is 

whiffled off the turntable to a round of 

applause. Many works do not sell. Why not 

have a legitimate retail outlet to deal 

with the leavings? Still further, if you 

are in a position to buy well, and few are 

in a better position than Sotheby's, it is 

only a matter of time until you accumulate 

sufficient inventory to mount a serious 

exhibition. Now that Sotheby's has a 

gallery venue, it can give real meaning to 

the concept of "retail." One would want to 

time this sort of select vernissage to 

correspond with the upward cycle of a 

mercurial market, and who better to make 

the mercury rise? What took `em so long?

The acquisition of Emmerich has another 

powerful incentive. The languishing 

contemporary art market will not languish 

forever. The American Color Field school, 

the true progeny of the masters of Abstract 

Expressionism, is now in exile. But it is 

certain to reassert itself, almost as a 

historical imperative. There was no greater 

force in the birth and sustenance of said 

school than Andre Emmerich. Buried in the 

Emmerich Gallery archives are untold 

treasures waiting to be exhumed at a 

propitious moment.

In a single merger-and-acquisition coup, 

Sotheby's has managed to stanch any loss of 

profit inherent in the auction process and 

corner a major part of an important 

American market. If Sotheby's were 

sufficiently foresighted, it would opt for 

an unholy trinity and acquire the Castelli 

Gallery as well, thus cornering the Pop 

market. The proprietor is aging and the 

time is ripe.

So the ever resourceful André, much beloved 

of Athena, stands once again on the shores 

of Ithaca. Alas, Helen of Frankenthaler 

still resides on the far-off shores of 

Knoedler's, but it is just a matter of time 

before a thousand ships are launched. 

Actually, several hundred thousand would 

probably do it.

Stewart Waltzer is a New York art dealer.