Sotheby’s may allow a Russian billionaire to peek inside their books

Rich people love to buy art, but they don’t love other people knowing they bought it. Almost every time a major art sale happens, the buyer and seller’s names are kept anonymous, mainly because these one percenters don’t want the world to know how much they spend.

Now, though, in what some art dealers are worried could set a precedent, Sotheby’s might be compelled to release information about its sales if a court orders it to in the case of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev versus his former art dealer, Yves Bouvier. Bouvier bought 38 pieces of art on Rybolovlev’s behalf while he was his art dealer from 2003 to 2014 (15 of them from Sotheby’s) and Rybolovlev is claiming that he charged him an inflated amount for those works, and he wants to take a look at Sotheby’s books to prove it.

Sotheby’s has announced that it will open the books if it is ordered to by the court, but many art dealers feel the auction house should do more to protect the proprietary information. “Confidentiality is the cornerstone of the art business,” one dealer told Page Six, “We expect it. Not fighting for confidentiality sets a chilling precedent.”