When a Botticelli painting went under the hammer last month at Sotheby’s in New York for $92 million, it was assumed the buyer was a Russian oligarch since the bidding was done by an adviser to wealthy Russians.
But as art journalist Scott Reyburn told “The Week in Art” podcast, it’s not always that simple: “Sometimes very wealthy collectors use telephone bidders that imply a certain nationality just to guarantee their own anonymity… to throw us off the scent,” he said.
The ultra-wealthy prize that sort of confidentiality, and it also helps build the mystique and theatre in which auction houses like to drape themselves.
Lately, however, regulators in Europe and the United States are out to spoil the fun, arguing that this culture of secrecy is ripe for exploitation by criminals.
New anti-money-laundering rules mean art and antiquities dealers in Britain and the EU must now record the actual