Sotheby’s: the museum where you can buy the art

Have you ever looked at a work of art hanging on a museum wall and thought, “That would look great in my living room”? Well, at one of the best “museums” in London you really can take it home with you.

Sotheby’s is London’s oldest auction house, and has been a London institution since 1744. They sell everything from fine art to vintage wine to antique furniture. While most items are beyond the means of the average visitor, the galleries and auctions are open to the public. There are branches in London, Paris, New York, and Hong Kong.

When I lived in London I visited the Sotheby’s galleries regularly. They host constantly changing exhibits of art and antiques. Since the items mostly end up in private hands, this is your only chance to see them. I was a bit worried the first time I went in that I’d be given some cold English upper-class attitude. It was painfully obvious I wasn’t there to buy anything. Surprisingly, I was treated with respect, which is more than I can say about a certain antique shop I visited in Islington.

On one visit a few years ago there was going to be a major auction of Russian art–some medieval icons and a lot of Neorealism. As usual the items that would be going under the gavel were put on display. As I wandered around admiring the art, I found the crowd to be equally interesting. Hordes of Russians in Armani suits were on their cell phones calling buyers in Moscow, describing art and getting instructions on maximum bids. Watching all these rich Russians and their multimillionaire bosses I realized just how much the world had changed in the past twenty years.

So check out Sotheby’s. It’s not only a lesson in art, it’s a lesson in sociology.

[Photo courtesy Claus Hoppe]

Giant yellow teddy bear bound for New York City

Visitors to New York City this spring should be on the lookout for a new landmark: a giant yellow teddy bear, bronzed and 23 feet high. The 35,000 pound untitled (Lamp/Bear) sculpture was created by New York-based Swiss artist Urs Fischer, one of three made in 2005/2006. The button-eyed bear sits against a lamp, which turns on above the bear’s head to keep him lit at night.

The behemoth bear will be outside the Seagram Building at Park Avenue and 52nd Street in Manhattan from next week for five months. Christie’s will auction the bear in May and the private collector who owns the artwork has already turned down a $9 million offer. There is a possibility the sculpture could be bought by a private institution or museum, but don’t rule out New York as a buyer if the bear proves to be a tourism draw.

Hat tip to Brooklyn Nomad on the story.

Photo courtesy of NYC Loves NYC on Flickr.

Bargain shopping for castles – a fire sale on Ireland real estate

The great recession hit Ireland especially hard. Irish bankers lent money they didn’t have to people that spent it on speculative real estate made more expensive by the Irish bankers flooding the market with the money they didn’t have. Basically, cash became too accessible and property prices skyrocketed. This is the nature of any proper bubble. Like the tulips in 17th century Holland or a Jose Canseco rookie card in the early nineties, market hysteria drives prices up even when the true inherent value is stalled out in a place called reality.

As we know now, the market came crashing down, and today Irish castles can be purchased at a bargain, along with many other types of distressed real estate.

According to Bloomberg, the 12th century castle of Kilkea is currently on the market for 6 million euros – 10 million less than one year ago. The property had been used as a hotel for decades, though its last few tripadvisor reviews are not exactly glowing. Describing the establishment as “desolate and freezing” with “filthy outdated rooms,” the property is likely in need of gargantuan updates. On the bright side, Kilkea castle has its own wikipedia page. Does it get any more legit than that?

The castle has 36 bedrooms, 140 acres of land, and an abandoned nightclub. It also once housed a wizard. Sounds like the type of place Michael Jackson would have bought. The curious star had a penchant for Irish castles.Maybe castles are not your thing, too bourgeois perhaps. Well, around Dublin, many deals are to be had on all types of distressed property. With commercial property values dropping by up to 70% thanks to the failed perpetual value machine that was Irish banking, even the building cranes and forklifts are being auctioned off.

In the nightlife mecca of Temple Bar, you can purchase a flat for 80,000 euros. A 3 bedroom penthouse in central Dublin, once valued close to 1,000,000 euros, is a steal at 230,000 Euros. Perhaps you have plans of building your own mini castle. Well, land in beautiful Wicklow county is as cheap as 20,000 Euros for a plot. Check out more of the deals here. Maybe it is time to become an Irish expat.

The auction for distressed properties will take place April 15 at the Shelbourne Hotel.

flickr image via meglet127

Off & Away goes international

Off & Away the recently launched luxury travel auction site is offering up its first international destination. On June 7, 2010, the site will send a stay at La Amada in Cancun under the virtual gavel. Other upcoming auctions include the Andaz in New York (June 9, 2010), Turtle Bay in Hawaii (June 9, 2010) and the Alexis in Seattle (June 10, 2010).

The greatest concentration of luxury deals on Off & Away so far appears to be in New York, so if you’re looking to take a trip out here, putting in a bid might not be a bad idea.

NY is being auctioned off right now. Only 1 hour left. Did you know that we’ve had auctions go for as little as $20? than a minute ago via HootSuite

Strangely, Off & Away rewards valiant losing efforts. According to the rules:

  • If you’re outbid, apply up to 110% of your used bids towards another room
  • Select from any of our 50,000 partner hotels at the Web’s best published rates

Royal Caribbean brings hammer down on art auctions

If you liked the art auctions on your Royal Caribbean cruises, brace yourself. In a post on his blog, the company’s president and CEO, Adam Goldstein, wrote that the contract it had with Park West Art Services to run its auctions on the ships expired and that it isn’t going to renew.

He adds that other art-related endeavors could be on the chopping block as well: “We are evaluating what if any art-related programming we may offer in the fleet in the future beyond Oasis of the Seas where Art Actually is our provider of art tours and art for purchase onboard.”

For now, Royal Caribbean and Park West Art Services are going through a “wind down period” as the art auctioneers wrap up on different ships over the next few months.