The Lehman Brothers Art Auction

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When I first heard a few weeks ago that the art collection that once hung in the hallways and offices of Lehman Brothers was going up for auction, I wondered if it could make enough money to at least partly compensate Lehman creditors, who are owed something in the neighborhood of $250 billion by the disastrously defunct investment firm.

Then I headed over to the website of Freeman’s Auctioneers, the auction house that would be conducting the sale in Philadelphia, and saw that most of the things going on the block, at least in the first of three planned sales, were relatively small potatoes — prints and photographs, though some of them by bigger names like Warhol and Lichtenstein. Even first quality prints don’t claim the prices that paintings and sculpture do, and anyway, as you will have heard, the art market went bust this year with everything else. Lehman’s former CEO is Richard Fuld, whose wife Kathleen is a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art and the Fulds are big collectors. (Or at least they were.) But the Lehman collection is not the Fuld collection.

All the same, the first part of the sale took place last night, and it turns out the Lehman brand may have lent some ghoulish cachet to their modest holdings, which brought in $1.35 million, about twice its pre-sale estimate. Lets see, if they can ring up the same numbers every time, all they would need to clear up that $250 billion mess would be roughly….185,000 more auctions.

Unfortunately, Lehman creditors, there are just two more to come.