I love art and value art and even collect it a little bit. But I know so little about it that I am reluctant to write much about it, especially when there are so many thoughtful and knowledgable critics out there who’ve devoted themselves to understanding and explaining what they’re seeing. So at Esquire or the Observer or even Fine Art Globe, which is owned by my company, I have seldom covered art.
But occasionally the art world intersects with topics I am qualified to cover and this summer that happened with meaningful results.
In May 2023, the venerable auction house Christie’s staged “The World of Heidi Horten,” a “glorious assemblage comprises over 700 jewels, a true embodiment of Mrs Horten’s timeless elegance, glamour and taste for collecting.”
Under pressure from Jewish groups, and also from the New York Times reporter Zachary Small, who would not let the matter go, Christie’s actually acknowledged the nasty way Mrs. Horten came into such a grand fortune, albeit in weak, oblique language, adding to its listing: “The business practices of Mr. Horten during the Nazi era, when he purchased Jewish businesses sold under duress, are well documented.”
I wrote about the story in May, breaking the news that a new group led by top DC patent lawyer Steven Lieberman and Rabbi Avi Weiss was searching for heirs to fortunes depleted by the actions of Mr. Horten. I covered it again at the end of August, when Christie’s canceled its planned second sale, which was a shock because the first had been the largest sale of jewelry in history, grossing over $200 million.
The lawyer who formed the group to pressure Christie’s praised my stories and I hope my shedding a light on this played at least a tiny role in adding to the pressure the auction house felt to do the right thing, if belatedly.