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André Emmerich
of André Emmerich 

Willem de Kooning
Woman as Landscape, 

Franz Kline
Andrus, 1961 

 Jasper Johns
Gray Painting with 
Ball, 1958 

David Hockney
Trees, 1964 

Hans Hofmann
Ave Maria, 1965 

 Hans Hofmann
Color Poem No.6,

Sam Francis
Untitled, 1955

Sam Francis
Untitled, (No.7),
to market, 
to market...

the marriage of emmerich & sotheby's by Judd Tully

Was Sotheby's anemic $13.4 million sale of contemporary art last May 8 (against a bullish pre-sale estimate of $23 million to $31.4 million) a factor in the formation of Emmerich/Sotheby's, the just-created confection starring art-world veteran André Emmerich? It depends on who you talk to. "No," says Diana D. Brooks, Sotheby's president and CEO, who also navigated the lame May 8 sale that saw a trio of multimillion-dollar lots--Willem de Kooning's Woman as Landscape, Franz Kline's Andrus and Jasper John's Gray Painting With Ball--sink with barely a hand raised. "In fact, we've been talking with André since February," emphasized Brooks. "Sotheby's is making an effort to shore up its image after the May debacle," countered one prominent private dealer who likened the alliance to Sotheby's diplomatic hiring last year of ex-Museum of Modern Art director, Richard Oldenberg, as a largely undefined ambassador-at-large. Oldenburg has a big title as chairman of Sotheby's America but has hardly made a wave since he came on board a year ago April. "André was appealing to Sotheby's for his contacts, the respect he commands and his longevity in the industry" (Emmerich is 71 years old), said another dealer who also insisted on anonymity. Several art-world observers noted the high- profile defections of senior Sotheby contemporary experts that began in 1994. Anthony Grant and Marc Selwyn left Sotheby's to join the international enterprise of PaceWildenstein, and former department head and major rainmaker, Lucy Mitchell-Innes, left last year and now runs an art advisory business with David Nash, her husband and former Sotheby's Impressionist/Modern star. The impact of this brain drain and the perceived inexperience of Sotheby's more junior contemporary department has given Christie's a leg up in their neck-and-neck battle for landing plum contemporary consignments. (That is an ironic development considering last year's resignation of Diane Upright, Christie's contemporary head and seasoned expert. She was succeeded by Neal Meltzer, who has yet to hit 30). The new alliance bolsters Sotheby's contemporary expertise substantially, since Emmerich's entire staff is to move uptown to the firm's York Avenue headquarters. Sotheby's now can boast of having the largest group of contemporary art salespeople and experts under one roof in New York, even surpassing PaceWildenstein's huge 57th Street presence. Emmerich's move uptown leaves behind significant gallery space at 41 East 57th Street, the dealer's longtime roost. Emmerich's two elegant and high-rent spaces (on the 5th and 6th floors), so far, will be retained for his extensive stable that includes living artists such as realist William Bailey, sculptor Anthony Caro, Brit expatriate David Hockney, abstractionist Al Held and sculptor Beverly Pepper. More importantly, Emmerich also lords over a large group of artist estates, including Josef Albers, Milton Avery, Sam Francis, Keith Haring, Hans Hofmann and Morris Louis. Sotheby's, significantly, did not acquire the dealer's inventory--which Emmerich had been trying to sell over the past year or so--but has the entire kaboodle on consignment. That means Sotheby's, along with Emmerich, can try to sell that horde of largely Color Field paintings both privately and at auction, the kind of hybrid arrangement that until now has been largely wishful thinking or foolhardy fantasy. "We have invented a whole new mechanism," exclaimed Emmerich. "It will set the art world on its ear. We can offer more and better services to artists and collectors than ever before. We can go head-to-head against PaceWildenstein and Christie's to boot." Among the projects Emmerich envisions are solo exhibitions for his stable at Sotheby's showrooms in London, Paris and Tokyo as well as publishing ventures including catalogue raisonnes. "We can finance any major project that comes along the way." It's still too early to tell how the Emmerich/Sotheby's hybrid will look after the media glow fades. It's also unclear what effect, if any, the new deal will have on Robert Monk, the current department head who took a lot of flak for the blustery estimates and subsequent results in the May sale. Judd Tully covers the international art market for a variety of publications, ranging from Art & Auction to The Washington Post.