“I can sell the Ralli.” A near catastrophe!

Six years of close co-operation was enough for me to trust Mr T and vice versa. On hearing about the Ralli he assured me that he had a buyer.

“Let me sell it for you. I can sell easily for ten thousand pounds.”

“Ok, you have one week to sell as I have a potential buyer too,” I made clear to him.

The week was over. My expectations for a sale were dashed and so I visited Mr T at his house to collect the painting.

“Leave it with me”, he pleaded. “I will sell it before the Christie’s sale, and if I don’t, I’ll consign it for you for the December auction.”

I collected the painting and tried to sell privately. It was summer and it was no use. I left the painting with my agent who consigned it with Christie’s for the Greek sale of that December.

By October 1995 Mr T passed away unexpectedly. Had I left the Ralli with him that summer I would have been involved in an ownership battle with his inheritors who were already warring between themselves about the huge art collection he had left behind. I avoided a calamity of immense proportions, which taught me a very serious lesson!

Never loan or give for sale anything without the necessary paperwork. I trusted Mr T but without any documents of sale agreement, I would have been out of pocket for sure and in a legal battle with his inheritors.

The consignment of the Ralli plus the Tsingos at Christie’s Athens went smoothly. The lady in charge liked the Ralli and the estimate was actually £7-10,000. It was a high estimate, but for the Greek collectors it was an encouragement to buy rather than stay away; buyers in Greek art sales used to be mainly private individuals, as opposed to auctions in London, where about 70% of lots sold went to dealers.

The December sale in Athens was a major affair for Athenian art lovers. Major names were included in the sale and the Ralli looked splendid, although slightly small. The sale was extremely important for me financially. If it was good I could carry on with my art business, if bad I was in financial trouble again!

· Being at the top of my overdraft limit was usual for me. It is not a practice I would advise anybody to follow.

· Using credit cards to finance purchases should be avoided. It doesn’t pay! It leads to serious problems and financial headaches!

Christie’s Greek Sale in December 1995 was crucial. I took the decision to attend the sale on which so much depended. I also had a couple of small sales to make there and as an added bonus weekends in Athens were always enjoyable and entertaining.

Athens to the rescue! Frenetic Bidding on the Ralli

Nervous, apprehensive and full of expectation I made my way to the auction and sat together with a good Athenian collector who had already bought two small paintings from me that very day. The saleroom was packed to the rafters, usually a sign of a successful sale. I estimated about eight hundred people in the room. Was that New York, or Paris or what?

The noise was interestingly loud, the audience anxious for the event to start and so the shaky auctioneer, the young Greek female expert of Christie’s stepped onto to the rostrum. She looked nervous, but also in control and handled things well. From the first few lots I could work out that the sale was going to be successful. However that didn’t stop my anxiety from rising by the time lot 40, the Ralli, came up for sale. Raising funds, surviving for another day was paramount. Sitting on the edge of my chair with sweaty hands and usual fast heartbeat on such occasions, I looked around me anxiously. Silence! Unusual silence!

The bidding started. No time to dwell on the precarious position I was in. I had the ammunition to come out of the crisis but would the Athenians like the goods I had brought to them from Europe? The hands were up, the bids flew in and before I even realized what had happened the Ralli painting had reached the reserve of seven thousand pounds; hands were still fighting each other at five hundred pound intervals. Three million five hundred thousand drachmas was passed and soon enough ‘The Odalisque’was at four million drachmas or ten thousand pounds. The young auctioneer turned left and right at 4,200,000 and then 4,500,000 and finally at 4,800,000 drachmas the gavel came down. Incredible!!!

What a triumph! Unexpected and expected at the same time! Art was beautiful and more so when the money from such small investments as the Ralli became seriously important. Was that a nine thousand pounds profit? Wasn’t that 300% return in eight months? Maths at work, quick! How much was that in sterling pounds? £13,500 and I looked at Lord Poltimore, who was smiling happily supervising the event. I was saved. An unexpected investment in the shape of an after-sale bid had become the boat of salvation and the beginning of a comeback. I had the money to support the business, to invest further and carry on with my dream.

Once again another painting of Ralli promised to turn the struggles of survival in the early 1990s to profit making on a higher scale. Some artists are lucky for some and Ralli proved to be a goldmine for me! There is no way I can describe my relief, my happiness and joy on that day. Nearly every problem disappeared. The Tsingos, lot 125 in the same sale, made me another £2000 and the Lembesis made the reserve of £6000. Once again I was back fighting and well on top of financial troubles.

This is how the art market can be. Up and down, down and up. A constant headache and heartache about what will happen the following day, in a months’ time, the following year. Challenging and promising like a siren.

Being lucky in any business is essential and I must admit I was lucky on many, many occasions. I cannot say that I was unlucky ever. Would luck continue on my side and would I keep creating the opportunities for luck to play her hand? An unsold painting and an after-sale bid had proven to be a golden opportunity and the shrewdest of moves in the middle of a recession. I had grabbed it immediately and was freed from a myriad of financial headaches.

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