Haute Secrets: Where Art World Insiders Dine During Mega Auction Week

The blockbuster contemporary art auctions take place next week in New York (see the HLNY feature Experts Preview November Auctions in the current issue), a time when priceless art and millions of dollars change hands and set the tone for the contemporary market for months to come. Along with the auctions come plenty of opportunities for collectors, advisors and auction house honchos to seal deals and talk shop at favorite boites and watering holes around town. To find out where art world machers go, we spoke to super-insider Scott Nussbaum, Head of Department, New York, 20th Century & Contemporary Art, at the Phillips auction house.

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Scott Nussbaum, Head of Department, New York, 20th Century and Contemporary Art, Phillips. Photo: Courtesy of Phillips

The business lunch has gone somewhat by the wayside in the digital era. How important is it today in the art world?

Very important. Despite attempts to prove otherwise, the art world is very much about personal relationships — and those don’t happen electronically. Having a face-to-face conversation over a meal or drinks is still the best way to establish and maintain connections.

Is there more wining and dining before, during or after the big contemporary and modern sales weeks?

It’s a year-round occupation, but definitely intensifies during auction weeks. Collectors are coming to New York from around the world and it’s our job to spend as much time as possible discussing the auctions with them. There’s no better way to do that than over great food and wine.

In your opinion, what is the best spot during auction week for:

People watching: The auctions themselves.

Running into the art crowd: The corner of 77th and Madison, where art world stalwarts the Surrey Hotel, the Mark and the Carlyle converge.

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Casa Lever. Photo: Courtesy of Casa Lever

For Italian food: Casa Lever at the Lever House, which has great food and great art. I’m also looking forward to the Major Food Group’s new take on the old Four Seasons space in the Seagram Building.

For French food: Le Bilboquet, always excellent.

Le Bilboquet
Le Bilboquet

Photo Credit: Donnelly Marks

For taking an important client to lunch: Kurumazushi, with the best omakase this side of the Pacific Ocean. 

For taking an important client to dinner: Depends on the client. I love going to Stephen Starr’s newest New York contribution, Le CouCou in Soho; for others, there’s nothing better than heading to Marcus Samuelsson’s Streetbird in Harlem.

Le CouCou
Le CouCou

Photo Credit: Ditte Isager

How do you feel business lunches differ today in London and New York? Fewer martinis.

How often do you eat lunch at your desk? If I’m not out with clients during auction week then I’m not eating.

Favorite museum dining spot: Flora Bar from the Estela team at the Met Breuer.

Best spots for cocktails during auction weeks: The Surrey.