Sotheby’s, the prestigious auction house, is preparing to contest a legal challenge from Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Monaco resident and billionaire owner of AS Monaco.
Sotheby’s expects that the Russian tycoon will use the British courts to claim that they may have acted improperly in the long-running case involving Yves Bouvier, the Swiss art dealer.
The auction house, which has its head quarters in the US, has said it would “vigorously” fight any action brought by Rybolovlev, saying that any suggestion it had been involved in fraudulent conduct or taken part in a conspiracy to inflate the values of art works was “categorically false”.
Rybolovlev has claimed in a number of jurisdictions that Bouvier cheated him by marking up the prices of up to 40 art works. In particular, attention has fallen on Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which Bouvier bought for €66 million ($80 million) at a private Sotheby’s sale, which he then sold for a reported €104 ($127 million) to the Russian.
Rybolovlev has claimed that Bouvier was acting as his agent and so had a duty not to mark up items he bought on his behalf. He has also asserted, through his lawyers, that Samuel Valette, Sotheby’s Senior Director, Vice Chairman, Private Sales Worldwide Impressionist & Modern Art, had written bullish assessments of a number of works that Bouvier forwarded on to him.
Meanwhile, Salvator Mundi was subsequently sold by the Russian for a record €382 million ($450 million) in a Christies sale.