Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Burst of Auction Fever and the Dealer Left with a [Pounds Sterling]10m Reynolds to Sell

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Burst of Auction Fever and the Dealer Left with a [Pounds Sterling]10m Reynolds to Sell

Article excerpt

Byline: SUSAN MOORE

DEALER Guy Morrison astounded the art world at Sotheby's on 29 November when he bid a phenomenal [pound]9.4million - [pound]2million over the published auction estimate - to win Sir Joshua Reynolds's celebrated portrait of Omai, the young Tahitian "noble savage" brought to England by Captain Cook in 1774.

As bidding soared in this auction battle-royal - the best piece of saleroom theatre seen in years - spectators looked on amazed as Canadian businessman David Graham leapt to his feet to instruct the Sotheby's staff member bidding on his behalf to extend his bid, and an agitated Mrs Graham implored her husband to hold back.

Even more amazingly, after securing the picture, the well-shaken Mr Morrison, based in St James's, announced that he had gone beyond his client's bid and, later that afternoon, that his client did not want the painting with a [pound]10 million-plus price tag (with the buyer 's premium included, the auction bill was a cool [pound]10.3 million). Was this a classic case of auction fever and the art dealer who bid too far?

Five weeks on the painting is still at Sotheby's in Bond Street, gracing the office of chief executive Robin Woodhead. Rumour, ever rife in the confines of the art world, has it that Sotheby's is furious, David Graham unwilling to take the picture, and Guy Morrison unable to pay his bill.

To set the record straight, Mr Morrison has now told the Evening Standard that while he did exceed his client's bid (and he states categorically that the client was not the Bath-based greetings card millionaire Andrew Brownsword or his art foundation), before the sale he had arranged financing to buy the picture on his own account if necessary. He said: "There has been interest in the picture ever since the hammer fell and I can confirm that there are currently three interested parties. …

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