"The Players' Club"
The auction floor is the ultimate shark tank. Meet its most ruthless predators.
Anyone who thinks the art world is dull hasn't visited an auction house's sales room. This is a place where the people with the foresight to sell wield just as much powers as those who can buy; where dealers bid into the millions just to maintain the value of their stock; and where advisers play the field in order to drive up their commissions. We polled dozens of art-world insiders to compile a list of the 10 most powerful people in the auction world today. They're the ones spending the most money, making the most money, and defining the market as we know it.
William Acquavella (D)
Provenance: New York.
Source of Wealth: His eponymous Upper East Side gallery (founded by his father in 1921), which regularly exhibits work by such mid-century masters as Pollock, Rauschenberg, de Kooning, Johns, and Rothko. Acquavella also represents Lucian Freud.
Collects: Picasso, Matisse, Bonnard, and Léger, most of which he resells on the secondary market.
Biggest Buy: Maurice de Vlaminck's Paysage de Banlieue, 1905, for $22.5 million at Christie's New York in May (Steve Cohen was the seller).
Known For: Bidding and buying in every sale. "He's the biggest boy in the room," says one adviser. He is, of course, a major player in the sort of deals that happen outside of the auction room as well. Acquavella brokered the famously doomed $139 million Picasso sale between Steve Wynn and Steve Cohen that fell through when Wynn punctured the painting with his elbow. Actor Steve Martin is also a client.