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How Sotheby’s Got that Rothko (and How CultureGrrl Didn’t Get that Story)

Sotheby’s officials may think they deserve all the credit for snaring David Rockefeller‘s Rothko (above), estimated to bring more than $40 million at tonight’s auction. But I think it was really all about CultureGrrl‘s karma:

“Number one in sales does not mean number one in profits,” Bill Ruprecht, Sotheby’s president and CEO was telling me, during a wide-ranging interview in his office for my article, Tricks of the Auction Trade, in today’s Wall Street Journal. “There’s a confidence and certainty within our organization about the parts of the market that we wish to be really good at.”

Just at that strangely appropriate moment, a young woman knocked, entered and handed him a note on a slip of paper, accompanied by a highly significant look.

“I’ll be right back. I really am sorry,” said Ruprecht, seeming genuinely contrite for interrupting a mere reporter. He promptly returned and picked up the thread of our conversation, as if nothing had happened.

At the end, while I sat outside his office, waiting for some catalogues to be bestowed upon me before my departure, Bill circled back and for the first time betrayed obvious excitement as told me that in two weeks he would let me know what had actually transpired during that brief phone call. As he turned to leave, I beseeched him, in vain, to come back immediately and tell me the news at that very moment.

You know the rest: As I later learned, it had been the megacollector’s go-ahead to auction his much coveted painting. That little note must have said something like, “David Rockefeller on the phone.”

And how did Ruprecht inform the person whose benign presence had brought him such good fortune?

Through Carol Vogel‘s NY Times article, of course.

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