Sotheby’s and Teamsters Cut a Deal, Ending 10-Month Lockout


Sotheby’s and the unionized art handlers who move its clients’ prized Warhols and de Koonings ratified an agreement today on a three-year deal that brings a 10-month lockout of the workers to a close, Crain’s reports. The deal increases wages one percent each year, raises the starting salary to $18.50 an hour and maintains benefits for the 42 workers who are members of Teamsters Local 814. While Sotheby’s was seeking to replace some of the union workers with temporary nonunion art handlers, this deal protects those positions as union jobs. Read More

occupy art

The Art of Noise: Is Occupy Wall Street Shaming Sotheby’s?

Jason Ide, left, with members of the Local 814.

Tobias Meyer, the fastidious German auctioneer at Sotheby’s, stood at the podium in the beige auction room two weeks ago, sweating gently in an uncreased suit and violet collar. Sotheby’s had a strong lineup of 73 lots, including four paintings from the “triumphant period” of Clyfford Still, an early proponent of Abstract Expressionism. But the Dow was down three points, the Italian prime minister had just announced his resignation over economic turmoil, and there was a mob of about 150 protesters outside the auction house’s glass facade, heckling the buyers and collectors on their way in.

“Shame on you! Go home!” protesters shouted as the likes of Eli Broad, Larry Gagosian and Jose Mugrabi scurried past the picket line before being sucked through the revolving door into the marble vacuum of the auction house. A small brass band outside Sotheby’s pumped out a zippy rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” as a pair of girls clapped and two-stepped on the sidewalk. An older gentleman leaned over the metal barricades placed by the police and gave a zealous thumbs-down. “Boooo!” he taunted, then turned to Gallerist. “This is fun, isn’t it?”

The protesters were picketing on behalf of the Teamsters Local 814, the union that represents the 42 art handlers at Sotheby’s. When the union contract came up for renewal in July, Sotheby’s hired the infamous union-busting law firm Jackson Lewis and proposed changes to overtime, benefits and restrictions on the use of temporary laborers, a package the union says amounts to a pay cut and a ploy to avoid paying benefits. The negotiations stalled, and on Aug. 1, Sotheby’s told the art handlers not to come back to work. Since then, protesters at Occupy Wall Street have seized on the juxtaposition of Upper East Side art buyers versus blue collar art movers, giving what might have been a routine picket line an unexpected jolt.

One protester gave the Sotheby’s clients the finger, provoking a gray-haired buyer with a checkered scarf. “Fuck you! Fuck you!” he shouted in a French accent. Once inside, he stood behind the glass window like a kid at the zoo, sticking out his tongue, mouthing obscenities, zealously grasping an imaginary phallus and pumping it a few times into his mouth before he grew bored or realized how many cameras were around. “He’s in Sotheby’s a lot,” one of the locked-out art handlers told Gallerist as he aimed a flashlight at arriving clients’ eyes. One picketer hoisted a cutout of Sotheby’s CEO Bill Ruprecht’s head on the end of a long pole. “I’m Bill the CEO,” the back of the sign said. “I gave myself a 125% raise, HA.”

The real Mr. Ruprecht was inside with “a big African American bodyguard,” said one veteran art adviser, who noted that it was the first time they’d seen Mr. Ruprecht with a detail. “Sotheby’s had staff beyond, beyond,” the adviser noted. “It was like a hand-off. It started many feet ahead of the building, and as you got to the corner, a guy came and walked you a few feet to the next, who walked you a few feet to the next, so you’re not alone for a step.”

Sotheby’s was worried about protecting its clientele, but it likely was more worried about protecting the art. “I’m just always amazed that nothing hideous has happened,” the adviser said. “What’s to stop a Tony Shafrazi from coming in with a spray can, which is what he did to Guernica? The thing is, he never went to jail for it and it actually gave him some business credibility in the art world!” Read More


Morning Links: Occupy Wall Street Edition

Aaron Bauer

The Smithsonian is collecting materials from the Occupy Wall Street protests, including some of the colorful signs that protestors have used down at Zuccotti Park. [LA Times]

Michele Elam discusses the ways in which art is central to the cause of Occupy Wall Street. [CNN]

Gallerist reported from a very bumpy Impressionist-modern auction at Christie’s last night. [GalleristNY] Read More


Occupy Art Street: A Guide to Recent Art World Protests

The protests have entered New York's art world. (Photo by Kyle McCluer / Flickr)

Raise high your palette knives! Wave your unstretched canvas! Occupy Wall Street has hit the art world. In recent weeks, protestors have disrupted Sotheby’s auctions in solidarity with union art handlers who have been on strike for more than two months, read manifestos outside of art museums and temporarily occupied Artists Space, a nonprofit gallery in Soho. If you haven’t been following the minute-to-minute developments on Gallerist, here’s a recap of the Occupy actions. Read More


Group Occupies Artists Space in SoHo [Updated 10/24]

One half of the leaflet distributed by protestors. (Courtesy Occupy 38)

October 24, 9:00 AM: The group that occupied Artists Space on Saturday after noon, remaining until they were asked to leave yesterday evening, have issued a statement on their Tumblr blog, which provides some background on their action. It begins as follows:

“The occupation at 38 Greene Street ended at 8PM on Sunday October 23rd, 28 hours after it began.

“The administrators of the Artists Space, under the influence of their board of directors, brought in a paid private security force of five to affirm the sanctity of their non-profit private property.

“Earlier, the Executive Director and his minions (apparently ignorant of their own exploitation and unwilling to join in the occupation) had been rudely shoved aside by a fraction of the movement which attempts, in sometimes distorted ways, to develop a critique of the existent. Clinging to the veneer of legitimacy still provided, in some minds, by the non-profit industrial complex, he took advantage of the occupiers’ patience and tolerance to hinder, as best he could, any real flourishing of rebellion in the space he had formerly controlled.

“Threatening and reminding us of the illegal nature of the occupation and his power to bring down the NYPD on our heads, he belligerently intimidated while farcically insisting on his sympathy with the movement. If he did not immediately use police violence to evict the occupation, this was of course only because of his cowardly attachment to his so-called “radical” credentials, status and image.”

Read More