You have to learn to say goodbye to pieces you love but that don’t make economic sense, Zemaitis says.
James Zemaitis: You have to know when to say goodbye to pieces that you love but just don’t make economic sense. It’s the toughest thing for me to do because I think I fantasize myself as some sort of, you know, curator on a deadline every season. There are always the $2,000 to $3,000 experiments that do not make economic sense, and which I get wrapped on the knuckles you know . . . you know by fellow executives at Sotheby’s. Without a doubt the trend in the better 20th-century-design auctions is to focus on the higher and higher value. It’s what makes economic sense. And without a doubt I spend much more of my time focusing on the few pieces that are worth in the six figures than I can with collections of objects that are worth a few thousand dollars apiece. So the most difficult thing is to say goodbye to a piece that you know that if you really treated it with . . . with a kind of reverence, you could, you know, introduce to a new group of collectors; but that it’s just not ready yet for prime time. And then you hate it if that piece ends up at a smaller auction house, and maybe it doesn’t get photographed very well. Or maybe it ends up on E-bay. You know but you have to know when to say when.