After I wrote about the London auction sales two newsletters ago, some further news drifted my way. It was confirmed that Sheik Al Thani did not bid in the Christie's Girault de Prangey sale, apparently due to "some physical problems" as a source mysteriously told me.
Meanwhile the J. Paul Getty Museum was telephone bidder 904. The museum chose very well, taking the "superb" plate of the Wind Tower (lot 19), the "fabulous" daguerreotype of the Wall near the Pool of Bethesda (lot 28), and the "weird but really neat" dag of checkered detail at the complex of Sultan Qala'un. The quoted descriptives were from my handwritten notes to myself in my catalogue.
The three new purchases brought the Getty's total Girault de Prangeys to 15. But, as I surmised in my newsletter, the Getty too was taken by surprise at this auction: "Institutions have to focus on their highest priorities at auction and plan their spending based on precedent rather than guesswork. This well-established practice limits flexibility when price levels are lower than expected." In other words, the Getty was expecting the Sheik to blow them out of the water again and did not expect prices to be so reasonable. In fact, the department noted, "The sale was a wonderful buying opportunity for individual collectors." I agree, but most collectors were also taken off guard.
The Bonham's London auction also got some clarification as the Australian press reported that the buyers for the large group of Australian aborigines were an anonymous Australian couple from Sydney's eastern suburbs (see below for a further note on another Australian aborigine image that makes news).