OK, fine, I’ll explain. I read something in the print version of the DMN Sunday paper that made my head spin, and this week on Twitter I’ve been obliquely poking fun at it, confusing all but four of my followers. The article was a profile of Capera Ryan, who works for the auction house Christie’s. It was written by Rick Brettell, a former director of the Dallas Museum of Art and a fellow whose knowledge and capabilities would lead a reader to expect something far beyond what the DMN published. The story is so bad, so glowing, so cliché-filled that I wondered if it was paid advertorial. Some samples:
Most of us who are fascinated by the sky-high art prices in the 1 percent world have little idea how works of art get to auction — particularly to the two places locked in battle for works of art, Sotheby’s and Christie’s. These houses make the frenetic world of the global art market work.
Local force Capera Ryan not only understands but also thrives in this hypercompetitive world. She has done as much as any of her colleagues and competitors worldwide to make sure that the best works go to her house, Christie’s, where she is deputy chairman of the Americas.
Huh? Most of us have little idea? Again, Brettell ran the DMA. He knows exactly how things work. Nice to know that Ryan is thriving, though.
She is, for many reasons, totally forward-looking and totally committed to what she does.
What is the secret of her success? “Honesty and transparency,” she reflects. “Also, tenacity … I am a workaholic and I never want to disappoint my clients; many of them are close friends.”
Well! The cat’s out of the bag now! Everyone knows the secrets to her success! Interviewer: “What’s your worst quality.” Respondent: “I work too hard and I care too much.” Nailed it!
She knows as well as anyone the many and surprisingly subtle relationships between art and money. She understands the interplay between desire and need, between “value” and asset management, between what is hot and what is not.
Between two ferns, is more like it. I guess I could stomach this fawning if there were a single sentence that counterbalanced it. But there isn’t such a sentence.
Her contacts are global, and what is important is that they are more than contacts. They are friendships. She does all the right things — serving on cultural boards, directing appropriate funds from Christie’s philanthropic projects, going to openings and dinner parties, and traveling the world — to meet more people and to establish a wider network of friends.
As Ryan explains: “It’s all about the relationships. When someone feels they can pick up the phone and call me night or day, that is priceless, and global business has always been about relationships.”
Actually, sometimes global business is about price. Local business, too. OK, just one more:
This range of interests is reflected in Ryan’s circle of friends and of access to privately held works of art. “I guess that I am just naturally curious, and I never question anyone’s motivations for a sale — from distressed economic conditions to personal matters. It is none of my business. I am here to help,” she says. It is easy to see her at Le Bilboquet or Café Pacific talking confidentially with a longtime friend whose husband has died or with a young couple wanting to start collecting.
“I am here to help if you’ll just call Christie’s at 214-599-0735. Or stop by our Highland Park Village office. I’d love to become your friend and take you to lunch at Café Pacific.”
I’m not sure what happened. There’s a good story here, somewhere. I know Ryan is indeed a big player in this fancy auction house world. That she worked at Sotheby’s and jumped ship for Christie’s seems like a storyline that could provide some interesting tension. I’d like to read about auctions for one-percenters and learn something about how expensive art is bought and sold, and Brettell, it would seem, is the perfect writer for the task. But none of that happens here. It’s just a bunch of treacly dreck. Everyone involved with this story except Capera Ryan should be embarrassed.