Whether it's automobile moguls (Ford) or gangsters (Little Man), no one is better than Robert Lacey at penetrating a secretive world and bringing it vividly to life on the page. Now, in his new bestseller, Lacey takes us inside Sotheby's, the world's biggest, richest auction house -- and reveals the art world at its most glamorous, ambitious, and scandalous.
After a fascinating tour through Sotheby's early history -- they began in London as dealers in rare books -- Lacey plunges us into the heart of his story: the decidedly ungentlemanly rivalry between Sotheby's and Christie's that began early this century, and the dramatic growth in the art market that this rivalry helped spawn. From Sotheby's expansion into America to the giddy heights of the eighties art boom, which saw Van Gogh's Irises sell for $53.9 million, Lacey takes us behind the scenes -- and captures the personalities, the feuds, the loot, the ostentation, and the glitz. Along the way, we rub shoulders with some of Sotheby's most notable clients -- Paul Mellon, Pamela Harriman, S. I. Newhouse, Donald Trump, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Bill Gates, to name a few -- and get an auctioneer's-eye view of the single most publicized auction of the century, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis estate sale. With an epilogue that talks about the recent scandal over the illegal importation of antiquities, Sotheby's is a richly compelling, fast-paced tale -- and another Lacey triumph.