Following Recent Protests, Sotheby’s Closes Some Galleries to the Public


Access to Sotheby’s 10th-floor galleries, where some of the house’s most valuable auction lots are on view ahead of this week’s evening sales, has been limited to members of the press and Sotheby’s account holders, as the house attempts to prevent more of the protests that Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have staged in recent weeks, disrupting Sotheby’s auctions in New York and London. Those wishing to view the galleries at the top of the building must first establish a $5,000 line of credit with the auction house in order to become a member.

Earlier protesters acted of out solidarity with the Teamsters Local 814 art handlers, who have been locked out of their jobs at Sotheby’s over contract negotiations since July.

The new policy marks a departure from the usual way Sotheby’s exhibits its lots—normally, anyone is allowed to walk in off the street and examine the millions of dollars of art on display. On Friday, Sotheby’s told Gallerist that it intended to take measures to prevent protests ahead of its evening sales, but representatives did not provide details.

“I simply cannot believe that they are preventing the general public from even accessing these works which, for the most part, spend their entire lives in private collections,” said Emerson Bowyer, a Columbia doctoral candidate in art history, who normally visits the exhibitions, but was turned away this weekend.

Representatives for Sotheby’s were unavailable for comment.

Other sections of the building remain open to non-members. Still, visitors must check in at the front desk and show identification, a new cautionary procedure that was implemented several weeks ago in an attempt to keep protestors out of the public auctions.