A Dealer, An Artist & His Bookie: William Acquavella & Lucien Freud

This is a wonderfully vivid story from the WSJ about the relationship of dealer William Acquavella, “the self-effacing head of a tony Upper East Side gallery that specialized in secondary-market selling of masterworks by Picasso and Matisse,” and artist Lucien Freud, “the notoriously reclusive and irascible painter with a lively personal life”:

A friend told me Lucian Freud wanted to have lunch with me when I came to London. I told a few friends. They said, “Oh, he’s doing these male nudes now, he’s difficult, it’s going to be tough.” So I go to lunch, thinking, how am I going to get out of this? And he says, “Will you come back to the studio?” He starts pulling out these pictures of Leigh Bowery. They were unbelievable. So I bought them all and made a deal that I would represent him world-wide. He said fine, we shook hands and that was the end of it.

When I took him on, he said to me, “I’ve got a bookie — and I’ve got a bill with him.” I figured, let me talk to him, I’ll pay it. So I have dinner with him — Alfie McLean, one of the largest bookmakers in Northern Ireland — and I said, “Alfie, what does he owe you?” He says, “2.7 million pounds.” I said, “OK, thanks [laughing].” We had to work this out.

What I love most about this relationship is that Freud and Acquavella only found each other when Freud was retirement age and only starting to produce his best work. Also, there are some interesting details about Freud’s process, “Freud still works on one painting during the day, another at night, mixing the color anew with each dip of the brush.”

hat tip Art Market Monitor

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