The Buying and Selling of Jeff Koon’s Hanging Heart

by Art Fag City on November 26, 2007 Events

Jeff Koon's Hanging Heart
Jeff Koons, Hanging Heart, 1994 – 2006, one of five versions, each uniquely colored, high chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating and yellow brass, 106 x 85 x 40 in. Image copyright

Gossip doesn’t have to be as convoluted as Richard Johnson’s Page Six column on the reportedly unscrupulous collecting methods of Adam Lindemann nor should it be so inaccurate. The skeleton of this story, which appears only at the bottom of Johnson’s piece, lies in Lindemann’s 2006 purchase of the Jeff Koon’s sculpture Hanging Heart from Larry Gagosian for an unconfirmed 4 million dollars, and his November 14th resale of the piece to the same dealer at Sotheby’s for a record breaking 23.6 million. The background, as Johnson tells it, is full of unhealthy business relationships, and who knows what else.

“…Lindemann and dealer Larry Gagosian had a falling-out three years ago when Lindemann lured away two of Gagosian’s top staffers, Stephania Bartolami and Amalia Dayan (now Mrs. Lindemann), and put them into business in the short-lived Bartolami Dayan art gallery in Chelsea.” Setting aside the fact that no explanation is given as to why Lindemann should have any investment in “luring away” Gagosian employees (no speculation is offered on Ms Dayan’s desires at the time) Johnson parrots the characteristically imprecise words of Artnet’s Charlie Finch here, and in doing so repeats the same mistakes. This may seem like a small point, but I’m sure Bartolami gallery does not appreciate the suggestion that they’ve gone out of business, when they merely shortened the name after Amalia Dayan left the partnership, presumably due to her pregnancy and marriage to a billionaire.

According to Page Six sources (Artnet), the apparent betrayal resulted in Gagosian’s refusal to do business with Lindemann, though he eventually got over it when the collector’s wife persuaded the dealer to sell the newly weds Jeff Koon’s Hanging Heart, as a symbol of their love. Presumably a confusing anecdote preceding these details involving Larry Gagosian’s uninvited martini drinking, steak eating behavior on the Lindemann properties has something to do with all this, though God knows what.

Page Six goes on to report that the Koon’s sculpture was never taken out of the crate, the Lindemanns intending to sell the piece the entire time. While it’s probably true, Johnson goes on to attribute Larry Gagosian’s subsequent repurchasing of the work as a strategy meant to maintain “Koons’ status atop the art world and keep the price up for his future sales.” This might be a happy consequence of the purchase, but Johnson seems to forget that Mr. Gagosian was not the only man bidding for the piece, and need not have walked home with it. More likely, the dealer was bidding on behalf of a client, and media sources have reported as much; Artnet suggested Steven A. Cohen in their article published mid month and Forbes speculated upon Eli Broad early last week.

For this reason, the overstated assertions issued by one pagesix tipster that there is “an unwritten law against flipping” and that “No one will ever sell to Adam again”, should be taken with a grain of salt. Artists and dealers often keep track of who buys what, and will refuse to sell to collectors who act in ways that might destabilize the value of their art, but Lindemann’s sale of the Koons sculpture wouldn’t have had this effect given its high estimate. The real story — that the collector’s actions weren’t as noble as they were made out to be — makes the Lindemanns look more dishonest and smarmy than they did yesterday, but not too much more.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: