In 2018, George Condo had become one of the most sought-after artists alive, scrapped over by the wealthiest and most powerful collectors across the globe. With new works being sold on the primary market to only the top arts patrons, the only option for many would-be Condo owners was to spend a fortune on one at auction. The demand was so insane that even dashed-off drawings estimated to sell for prices in the mid-five figures were selling for as much as $400,000.
That November one such drawing—a small black-and-white work—was consigned from “a private collection in Greece” to Sotheby’s. It was estimated to sell in the auction house’s Contemporary Art Day sale for $80,000 to $120,000, but—shockingly—failed to find a buyer. Sotheby’s, it turned out, dodged a bullet. The world’s oldest auction house didn’t know at the time that the work wasn’t worth anything close to $120,000.