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Steve Cohen of SAC Sacks Art: A Story So Nice, Carol Vogel Wrote It Twice

Warhol, "Liz #1 (Early Colored Liz)," 1963 Presale estimate: $20-$30 million 2013 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Warhol, “Liz #1 (Early Colored Liz),” 1963
Presale estimate: $20-$30 million
2013 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Usually newspapers seek to avoid the duplication of the same story in the same day’s newspaper.

But the news that embattled hedge fund mogul Steve Cohen of SAC Capital Advisors plans to offload some of his contemporary art collection next month at Sotheby’s hit both the Arts section and Business section of yesterday’s NY Times, with both stories authored (or co-authored) by veteran art-market reporter Carol Vogel. (Katya Kazakina of Bloomberg caught up with the story today.)

In her “Business” section piece (co-bylined with Peter Lattman), Vogel reported:

Mr. Cohen has put two major paintings by Andy Warhol [including the “Liz” pictured above] and an abstract canvas by Gerhard Richter up for sale….

People familiar with Mr. Cohen’s collection said that these paintings were part of a larger group of his works [emphasis added] being put up for auction.

Contacted by me today, Sotheby’s would only say, “There are no works in our upcoming sales designated [emphasis added by me] as coming from Mr. Cohen’s collection.”

Maybe the fact that Sotheby’s hosted this museum-like show in 2009 of depictions of women drawn from Cohen’s collection helped to give that auction house the edge in snaring this consignment.

Speaking of embattled art-market luminaries, this major consignment (depending on how well the works actually sell) could prove to be a coup for the embattled Sotheby’s, which has been fighting off charges from activist investors that it has not been sufficiently proactive in boosting its business, particularly in contemporary art (where Christie’s last spring took a decisive lead).

As it happens, the most aggressive of activist investors targeting Sotheby’s, Daniel Loeb, is an invited speaker for the NY Times-organized Opportunities for Tomorrow conference on Nov. 12. I’ve always felt queasy about the conflict-of-interest aspects of newspapers’ holding money-making events, moderated by its own journalists, that depend upon the friendly participation of the people whom they cover.

My theory that Sotheby’s might seek a “white knight” to joust with Loeb got some support in the Wall Street Journal recently from Ronald Barusch, who suggested in his “Dealpolitik” column that “an unusual provision in the poison pill its [Sotheby’s] directors adopted” might in essence amount to “a for-sale sign on the company….The board might rather see the company sold than Mr. Loeb succeeding in getting Sotheby’s to replace its CEO and giving Mr. Loeb a voice inside the board room when proxy season rolls around.”

an ArtsJournal blog