Sotheby's: Bidding for Class

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Little, Brown & Company, 1998 - Art - 354 pages
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In this account of the world's oldest and richest auction house, Lacey brings to life the personalities, ambition, and shrewd business dealings behind the glamour and glitz. From the socially ambitious parson's son Montague Barlow to the endlessly charming, brilliant, and amoral aristocrat Peter Wilson to the present owner, American shopping mall magnate A. Alfred Taubman, and his flamboyant lieutenant Diana D. Brooks, the managers of Sotheby's have learned how to dress their rummage sales for the rich in a glowing patina of scholarship, taste, and social distinction. Robert Lacey reports from the inside on such recent events as the auction of the personal property of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1996 and Mohamed al-Fayed's sale of the goods of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in February 1998. He traces the history of the long and often bitter rivalry with Sotheby's only significant adversary, Christie's, the "other" auction house. He tells how top executives from the two houses compete in the wooing of wealthy widows and estate lawyers to grab the rights to the few artistic masterpieces left in private hands, and to uncover new categories of "collectibles" to tempt the appetite of a relentlessly consumerist world.

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Sotheby's: bidding for class

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This interesting, well-researched, and often gossipy story of one of the world's most famous art-auction houses begins with a 1700s book dealer and extends into the present. (LJ 5/1/98) Read full review

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About the author (1998)

Robert Lacey was born in Guilford, Surrey, England on January 3, 1944. He earned a B.A. in 1967, a diploma of education in 1967, and an M.A. in 1970, all from Selwyn College, Cambridge. Lacey began his writing career as a journalist, working for the Illustrated London News and later the Sunday Times magazine. While working for the latter, he also began writing biographies; his books about Robert, Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh led to a commission to write a history of Queen Elizabeth's reign, to be published during her silver jubilee. Majesty: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor became an international bestseller, and established Lacey's reputation as a biographer who treated his subjects accurately and fairly. Lacey is a thorough researcher who has often gone to great lengths to immerse himself in the background of the people he writes about. He moved to the Middle East and even learned Arabic while doing research for The Kingdom, a biography of Saudi Arabia's first ruler, Abdul Aziz Sa'ud. And when writing Ford: The Man and the Machine, about Henry Ford, he relocated to Michigan and worked for a time on the assembly line in an auto plant. He is also the author of Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life, The Queen of the North Atlantic, The Life and Times of Henry the VIII, God Bless Her!, and Princess, a pictorial biography of Diana, Princess of Wales. Robert Lacey married Alexandre Avrach, a graphic designer, in 1971. They have three children, Sasha, Scarlett, and Bruno.

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