Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Story Behind the Story-

Here's another example of the story behind the auction being as interesting as the items in the sale itself-

“Magnifique Ensemble de Meubles et Objets d’Art Francais –Collection Monsieur Akram Ojjeh”
Monaco; Sotheby Parke Bernet: June 25-26, 1979.

A fascinating sale- Saudi entrepreneur, art & antiques collector, smuggler and international arms dealer Akram Ojjeh had purchased the magnificent collection of 18th century French furniture formed by art dealer Georges Wildenstein in 1977, intending to use it to furnish the famous luxury liner ‘France’, which he had also just purchased with the intention of turning it into a floating casino. That plan fell through and Ojjeh divested himself of both the ‘France’ and the furniture, the ship to Norway and the furniture at this glittering auction.

Sir Francis Watson contributes an introduction to this catalog in which he recounts spending an afternoon in the Wildenstein’s townhouse in New York, examining the many pieces of cabinetwork that were sold in this sale. On July 9, 1979, Time magazine wrote about the event-

“The crowd in the chandelier-hung room at Monaco's elegant Winter Sporting Club was certainly stellar, stippled with the rich (Greek Shipowner Stavros Niarchos, London Merchandising Millionaire Sir Charles Clore), the royal (Britain's Princess Alexandra) and the pop (ex-Beatle Ringo Starr). But the real stunners were the prices being paid for the glittering collection of French antique furniture and objets d'art that were on the block in what Sotheby Parke Bernet hoped would be the auction of the year. So it was. On sale were 201 antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries that once belonged to the famed Wildenstein family of art dealers. The collection was bought in 1977 by Akram Ojjeh, a Saudi Arabian entrepreneur who lives in France. Even Sotheby's normally unflappable chief auctioneer Peter C. Wilson was astonished at the frenetic pace of the bidding, which often drove prices three or four times as high as most dealers had expected. The most breathtaking buy was a garishly ornate Louis XV corner cabinet. The contenders were two agents working for anonymous buyers and Art Dealer Andrew Ciechanowieski of London's Heim Gallery. As the salon fell silent with tension, the three repeatedly raised the price in jumps of $117,000. Finally, Ciechanowieski, nodding his head, raised the bid to $1.7 million—more than three times the amount ever paid for a single piece of furniture in an auction. All told, the collection fetched $12.8 million, which made the Monaco auction second in size only to the sale, for $34 million, of the famed Robert von Hirsch collection of rare art and furniture in England last year. Owner Ojjeh apparently turned a handsome profit on the sale. He bought the collection from the Wildenstein family two years ago reportedly for $7 million.”

Hardcover. 7.5”x10.5”, 273 pages, 201 lots, color and black & white illustrations, dust jacket. Prices realized sheet stapled to first page. Minor wear, otherwise clean and nice.


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