Sotheby’s Is Paying Buyers to Bid on Its Artwork

  • Auctioneer pays fee to buyers who agreed to bid at sale
  • Company aims to transfer risk from art sales it guarantees

'Onion Gum' by Jean-Michel Basquiat at a Sotheby's VIP dinner. Photographer: Zach Hilty/

Sotheby’s was in a bind. The auction house had won several top consignments for its bellwether spring auction, including a Jean-Michel Basquiat that sold for $7.4 million four years ago, by guaranteeing the sellers minimum prices.

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