Bernard Arnault buys Art & Auction

The French chairman of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey and Phillips auction houise may turn the publication into a luxury lifestyle magazine


The trade-monitoring magazine Art & Auction has changed hands. The magazine’s editor disclosed that it has now been acquired by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH), the luxury goods conglomerate that also owns Philips Auctioneers.

Bruce Wolmer, who has functioned as the publication’s editor and publisher over the past year, would not discuss the amount (if any) that the French firm had paid to take over the magazine, which had weathered rough financial times since its sale by the financier Marshall Cogan to a group of investors in 1998. This group, called Art Press International paid $250,000 for the magazine then and took on its debt. Mr Wolmer described the most recent owners as “passive investors who lacked the aptitude or the interest required for publishing an art magazine.”

Under that regime, Art & Auction began an ambitious bi-weekly schedule, which it abandoned after a year, insiders say, for lack of cash. Under the new owners, Mr Wolmer said, “the things at the magazine that the trade has most valued will continue.”

The extent to which LVMH owner Bernard Arnault would like to tinker with Art & Auction is unclear, but no one expects penetrating investigation of Phillips’s strategy to conquer new territory in the auction market. In interviews, Mr Arnault has stressed that his firm is in the “luxury business.” Will Art & Auction become its promotional arm?

Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Mr Wolmer, who will remain as editor, hinted that the magazine might seek to expand its circulation beyond the current 15,000 of trade readers who are almost all in the United States. “I have always thought that we could grow by twenty or thirty thousand readers by broadening our consumer audience,” he said. “With an expanding art market, it seems wrong and self-defeating to narrow our reach rather than to extend it.” He might do well, however, to remember the fate of the Connoisseur magazine, which under the editorship of Thomas Hoving attempted just such a transformation and lost so much money that Hearst Corporation simply closed it down in the 90s slump.