With over twenty years’ experience in the art market, plus a further ten years’ previous experience as a curator and consultant, there are few in the industry as well-placed as former Sotheby’s senior director Joseph Friedman. He sources works of art for private collectors, generally off-market, and brokers sales, both by private treaty and at auction. ‘Discretion is key, with value at the heart of all transactions,’ he says.
Friedman’s principal focus is Old Master paintings and sculpture, Impressionist and Modern art, and 18th-century furniture and objects, and he has attracted a distinguished international clientele, among whom feature Lord Rothschild, the Al-Fayed family, Kay Saatchi, film-makers Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, and Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey.
He has also acted as adviser to the Foreign Office and the National Trust, and handled sales to the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Ireland, and the British Library, among other public collections.
Notable triumphs include putting Kay Saatchi’s collection through sale at Christie’s in 2011, the highlight of which was a group of rare early drawings by Lucian Freud and Ron Mueck’s iconic Big Baby.
In the same year, at Sotheby’s, he acquired a landscape painting for Christopher Bailey, the subject of which was unknown but which he identified as the view from Bailey’s own house in Yorkshire, which Spencer had visited in the 1920s, when the house was occupied by the artist’s sister and brother-in-law.
Later, in 2013, while sourcing antiques as part of the Paris Ritz’s most recent refurbishment, he identified a previously unrecorded early masterpiece by Charles Le Brun in the Coco Chanel suite. Overlooked for decades and valued at only a few thousand euros, he subsequently sold. The Sacrifice of Polyxena for its owner through auction to the Met museum for nearly $2 million, a record price for the artist.