De Pury claims he never received his commission which, although not written into any contact, was part of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’.
The Tahitian period painting, Nafea faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry), was sold to the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in a $210m private sale in 2014. It is reportedly the second most expensive transaction for a work of art ever.
Its previous owner was former Sotheby’s executive Ruedi Staechelin, whose grandfather had acquired the picture when assembling an important collection of modern art.
According to the complaint filed against Staechelin and his trust, de Pury acted as a broker between Staechelin and Guy Bennett, a former Christie’s expert who became the Qatari’s director of collections and acquisitions. He expected $10m for his role in the sale.
‘Based on mutual trust’
De Pury’s counsel Jonathan Cohen QC argued that deals in the art market are frequently “based on mutual trust” rather than written agreements.
However, Staechel in’s counsel, John Wardell QC, said “all commission has been forfeited if any right ever existed” during negotiations over the picture, which took place over a two-year period.
The case continues.