‘Rendered Speechless’: Brett Gorvy Has a Lot to Say About This Week’s Auctions

Gorvy with a work by Paul McCarthy.

Gorvy with a work by Paul McCarthy.

Folks, there is effusiveness, and then there is Brett Gorvy.

Christie’s head of postwar and contemporary art has gotten rather, shall we say, excited about the artworks the house is auctioning this season. So excited that he had to tell the world—well, the art world—about it. His poetic musings took the form of two letters, one (“Speechless from New York – A Note From Brett Gorvy”) that landed in inboxes last week, just before the Impressionist-modern auction and another (“Final Thoughts on Tomorrow’s Sale”) that arrived today, on the eve of tomorrow’s big postwar and contemporary sale. Yes, there is practical stuff in these letters (“We have encouraged our consignors to set consciously conservative estimates”). But it is leavened with such romantic sentiments as “It is easy in this profession to fall in love with the objects over which we are brief guardians.” Never in our history of covering the art market (and, dear reader, we are pretty old) have we read such reverential outpourings from an auction house professional. The cynic in us wants to say, “Snap out of it, Brett!” But there is another, very real part that wants other specialists to, you know, speak from the yearnings in their hearts or whatever. Read the highlights of Mr. Gorvy’s letters below, and swoon with us.

I am rendered rather speechless by the works…

It is easy in this profession to fall in love with the objects over which we are brief guardians.

Earlier this week, we were still deep in the process of installation and had not yet hung the wall labels. It was wonderful to view the works without estimates and to simply enjoy them as rare and beautiful masterpieces.

Mark Rothko’s No. 11 (Untitled) (Lot 21, $25,000,000-35,000,000) brought the warmth of the sun into the galleries.

It seems such a shame that an exhibition of so many great works will have to be dismantled tomorrow afternoon … we have barely had five days to enjoy this kind of caliber and beauty. Each season I wonder if we can do this again….

In my heart, I believe the results this week will be extraordinary.

As a modest collector myself, I always give the same advice to clients: “It is the next morning, and you wake up, and you do not own the object that you had so desired to acquire. How much does that hurt? That is how much you need to bid. Otherwise the memory of the work and the hurt of the loss will be all that remain.”

Well, there you have it. If that doesn’t do it for you, here’s Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo.”

‘Rendered Speechless’: Brett Gorvy Has a Lot to Say About This Week’s Auctions