Apr 7 2008

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New York auction houses show finer things for free

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By Samantha Chapnick

Eric Clapton‘s Fender Stratocaster "Blackie,"; Marilyn Monroe‘s $1.3 million dress that she wore singing Happy Birthday to JFK, Marlon Brando‘s annotated "Godfather" script, Picasso‘s "Boy with a Pipe," and The Magna Carta? What do these things have in common?

They’re all items you could have seen up close and personal, for free, if you went to a viewing at an auction house.

Unless you happen to have many friends whose names are followed with
numbers or preceded by titles, chances are you’ll never see 99% of the
world’s most famous art, artifacts or popular culture items. Most of
the Monets and Picassos live in the living rooms of private collectors
who scooped them up from dealers and auctions. 

Now the good news. Just a few blocks from your New York hotel are
three places where you can spy the world’s best masterpieces without
crowds and for free. Yes, FREE. Hey, that deserves capital letters.

A week or so before an auction, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips de Pury,
do a "viewing" where anyone in the general public, for free, can get
inches away from the merchandise. Aside from art, I like to go see the
jewelry.

Although Sotheby’s and Christie’s are known for paintings, they
actually sell some fascinating and relatively affordable items most of
the time, including cigars, arms and armor, cars, wine, manuscripts,
even film scripts.

Insider tips

  • The auction houses coordinate schedules, so they will do
    important auctions in the same week. If you love impressionism or fine
    gems or fancy cars, check the schedules in advance and you’ll catch the
    viewings at both houses.
  • House sales: While they may not have any Picassos left over,
    periodically they will sell the more affordable items at their house
    sales, which are the upscale auction house’s answer to eBay.

Upcoming auctions include:

Related Orbitz resources:

Samantha Chapnick is a New York writer who scours international destinations looking for what hasn’t been found.

More About: MaryJo Lipman

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