MANHATTAN (NY) – An art collector claims he placed a winning, $3 million bid on Sam Francis’ “Grey” at a Christie’s auction, but lost the painting when the auctioneer illegally reopened the bidding.
Gregory Callimanopulos says that after he phoned in his bid to a Christie’s employee, the hammer fell and auctioneer Christopher Burge announced that the painting was “sold to the telephone for $3 million.”
However, “After a pause of not less than 20 seconds and after the sale had been completed, Mr. Burge recommenced the bidding,” Callimanopulos says, adding that Burge “concluded this second round of bidding at $3.2 million.”
According to the federal complaint, Burge he reopened bidding because a paddle went up as the hammer fell, according to the federal complaint. But Callimanopulos says that account contradicts Christie’s “Co-Head of Evening Sale” April Jacobs, who handled Callimanopulos’ telephone bid.
Callimanopulos says Jacobs wrote an email to his curator, stating, “From my vantage point, I did not see a new paddle go up before the hammer went down.”
After the second round, director Joanne Heyler of the Broad Art Foundation in Los Angeles had the top bid, and Christie’s is completing the transfer of the artwork, the complaint states.
Callimanopulos wants that transfer enjoined and insists he is the rightful owner. He also seeks an injunction preventing Christie’s from destroying any of the video or audio recordings of the auction.
He is represented by Jeffrey Dine of Seward & Kissel LLP.
Sam Francis, 1923-1994, was an American abstract expressionist painter who was influenced by Zen Buddhism from his time in Japan.