Collector and plaintiff Craig Robins. Photo: Cindy Karp for The New York Times.
Legally, it will be difficult to prove that Zwirner ever “promised to help get Mr. Robins off the blacklist and sell him choice paintings from the current show of Ms. Dumas’s work at Zwirner” unless it’s in writing — in which case Zwirner have settled out of court. Additionally:
As for the supposed blacklist, the lawyers added, as if addressing a purely philosophical problem, “If such a list exists, and if Robins is on it, Zwirner did not put him there and cannot take him off.”
Marlene Dumas “Wall Weeping”(2009), part of Against the Wall, courtesy of David Zwirner Gallery.
The existence of such a list, of course, is not outlandish. That an artist would have ego enough to direct where his/her work ends up is not unheard of. And galleries are not immune to such puppeteering.
…with the explosion of the art market over the last several years and a sharp rise in the number of speculative buyers entering the market, those who sell art have become much more wary of collectors’ motives — and that they keep, in addition to secret waiting lists for in-demand artists, another even more secret list of buyers suspected of wanting to flip art for a quick profit.
Some gallerists in turn blame the voracity of collectors like Robins. Jeffrey Deitch — you might recognize the name — adds his two cents:
“They humiliate us by this kind of manipulation,” he said. (He described a collector who bought a work from his gallery after “intimating” that it would be donated to a museum but who then quickly sold it at auction. After Mr. Deitch informed him that he would no longer do business with him, he said, “He was shocked, but he knew what I was talking about.”)
Marlene Dumas “Charity” (2010), part of Against the Wall, courtesy of David Zwirner Gallery.
So where does the onus lie: should gallery sales be regulated, or should collectors who otherwise play the game shut up when things don’t go their way? Or should everyone just have a snack and take a nap?