The real highlight for many art world patrons is the Sunday morning brunch at Christie’s (Sotheby’s has a cocktail party). From eleven o’clock to one, jacketed waiters serve champagne and tend to a spread of food, hoping to create a festive atmosphere for potential buyers. Watching my colleagues stack their plates with leaning towers of mini-bagels and lox, assorted pastries, and croissants, is a sight to behold. The less important the player, the more food they take. The Yiddish word chazzer (pig) quickly comes to mind. I’ve even caught a member of “Lilco” (Long Island Ladies Co.), a posse of bored rich housewives masquerading as art consultants, sneaking food into her purse.
Personally, I only sip champagne. I’m there to do business. For that reason, I always make it a point to have breakfast before going to Christie’s. There’s nothing worse than trying to shake the hand of a client when yours is covered with cream cheese. Ditto for trying to have a serious discussion with a collector, who’s staring at your teeth, dotted with black poppy seeds from a bagel. Finally, unlike me, the real power dealers don’t touch the champagne, demonstrating their taste is above the inexpensive label being served.
Simply put, the Christie’s brunch offers a unique overview of the players who make up the art market. Whether it’s a dealer exaggerating to a colleague about how much money he just made on a sale, a collector lying about how he was the underbidder on last year’s recordbreaking work by (fill in the name of a famous artist), or an auction house expert insisting whatever painting you point to is the best of its kind, it’s all pretty amusing–to an outsider.