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Life continues sweetly for the .001 pc

business Updated: Nov 11, 2011 21:53 IST
Jeffrey Goldfarb
Jeffrey Goldfarb
Hindustan Times
Sotheby’s

Contemporary art may have been on sale at Sotheby’s on Wednesday night. But the scene was more befitting a surrealist. Just hours earlier, the financial markets had one of their worst days in months. Hundreds of protesters clamoured outside the famed art house, alongside the buyers’ limousines, for greater income equality.

Inside, the ultra-rich splashed out over $300 million in what connoisseurs called an epic auction.

The evening’s sensation was “1949-A-No 1” by the relative unknown Clyfford Still. A bidding war on the red-and-black painting drove the price up to nearly $62 million, more than twice the high-end estimate and a record for the artist. Gerhard Richter’s works also blew away expectations to help give Sotheby’s its highest contemporary auction rake in over three years.

Art envy isn’t the only sign that the Occupy Wall Street din isn’t being heard on penthouse terraces.

Sanford Weill, the former chief executive of Citigroup, put his 6,700-square-foot, top-floor residence on Central Park West on the market for $88 million. That’s twice what he paid for it four years ago and would be a Manhattan record. Weill plans to donate the proceeds to charity, but for the time will have it as a deduction to apply against his taxable income.

The point is, the besieged banker class is still going about its business — and wielding considerable clout. That’s a lesson celebrity chef Mario Batali learned after likening bankers to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin at a media event. After news of the comments swept across Wall Street and sparked talk of boycotts among Batali’s well-heeled clientele, he apologised.

Headlines about eight-figure homes and paintings and five-figure meals may breathe fresh life into the demonstrators as winter approaches. But more than anything, the events prove that for the .001 percent, life proceeds sweetly.

The New York Times