Two houses, two auctions, two sisters and one $160M art collection

Arthur Sanders and Pamela Sanders and “Untitled” (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which is being sold by Lise Spiegel Wilks (Photo by CLINT SPAULDING/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Arthur Sanders and Pamela Sanders and “Untitled” (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which is being sold by Lise Spiegel Wilks (Photo by CLINT SPAULDING/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Sotheby’s and Christie’s may have more in come than even they realize. Case in point: a massive collection of contemporary art from two siblings (who, by the way, aren’t on speaking terms) is being sold by both houses at the same time. In all, the art up for auction is estimated to fetch $160 million.

The sibling in question are the daughters of the late Jerry Spiegel, a onetime Long Island farmer turned real-estate mogul. Spiegel and his wife Emily amassed an extremely valuable collection of artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel and Jeff Koons.

The daughters, Pamela Sanders, 60, and Lise Spiegel Wilks, 59, inherited the collection following their parents’ deaths and each are entitled to half the profit from the sale. However, one daughter chose Christie’s and the other picked Sotheby’s, apparently causing “intrigue within the houses,” according to Bloomberg.

Now half the art will be flogged at essentially the same time on May 17 and May 18.

“It’s ruthlessly competitive,” Doug Woodham, former president of Christie’s in the Americas and author of a new book, Art Collecting Today, told Bloomberg. “The auction houses fight aggressively to win that business.”

Splitting the collection between the two houses may seem like an odd move to outsiders, one perhaps motivated by the sister’s dislike for one another (from whence their bad blood stems is not known to the public). In fact, pitting the auction houses against each other is an increasingly common move designed to create competition and ensure the best deal for the seller. Theoretically, the stiffer the competition, the higher guarantee (or minimum sale price) the auction house will offer. [Bloomberg]