Welcome to the world of high-end New York auction houses that make billions in the business of buying and selling art, antiquities and one-of-a-kind collectibles.
It’s a world in which theft, smuggling and forgery are also multibillion-dollar-a-year businesses.
Welcome to The Art of More, a compelling and eye-opening new drama series that’s part crime thriller, part soap opera, part exposé.
The 10-episode series — premiering Thursday on Crackle, Sony’s free digital streaming network — stars Christian Cooke, Dennis Quaid, Kate Bosworth and Cary Elwes.
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You’d be surprised how many reek of blood and dirty money.
Character Graham Connor, on tainted auction items
The show shines a spotlight on the ugly underbelly of a business that prefers to project an image of good taste and propriety.
Not all of the items put up for auction are tainted, of course. But as Cooke’s character, Graham Connor, tells viewers in the debut episode, “You’d be surprised how many reek of blood and dirty money.”
Series creator/executive producer Chuck Rose, a lifelong art and museum lover, got wind of this a few years ago while chatting with a friend who had just gotten a job at a crème de la crème auction house.
“I assumed it would be a wonderful place to work,” Rose says. “She said, ‘Oh, it’s a nightmare. They’re the most ruthless people!’ That stuck in the back of my mind. I had also been reading a lot in the papers about the smuggling of antiquities and the black market.”
That led to the creation of Graham Connor, a go-getter junior account executive at the Park Avenue auction house Parke-Mason. Graham knows art. He also knows firsthand the unsavory side of the business. It wasn’t very long ago that, as a soldier stationed in Iraq, he was involved in smuggling artifacts.
In the debut episode, while trying to woo a blowhard billionaire collector (Quaid) away from a rival auction house, Graham’s criminal past comes back to haunt him. And while trying to protect his secret, he winds up getting mixed up in a new caper that involves cold-blooded murder.
Elwes, who plays Arthur Davenport, a prominent art collector with questionable ethics, thought he knew all about this climate before he joined the cast. His father was a painter and his mother an interior designer. As a boy, he regularly tagged along when his parents attended auctions.
But the stories in The Art of More were a revelation to him.
“I had no idea that there was any kind of funny stuff going on,” Elwes says. “You don’t really hear much in the news about this except for when something extraordinary happens and one of the auction houses gets their knuckles rapped for price fixing or something like that.”
The actor checked with a friend who’s in this line of work. “I said, ‘Is this true? Does this stuff really happen?’ And she said to me, ‘Cary, it’s that and a whole lot more that you wouldn’t even believe.’ ”
Part of what makes the auction world compelling is it touches upon so many different areas of interest
Chuck Rose, series creator and executive producer
Part of the fun of The Art of More is the variety of pieces that pass through Parke-Mason’s doors. It’s not just paintings by the old masters and historic artifacts recovered by archeologists.
In the first episode, collectors bid on a Ferrari once owned by Steve McQueen; in Episode2, Pete Townshend’s hand-written lyrics to Won’t Get Fooled Again are on the block.
Subsequent episodes feature Napoleon memorabilia, Sally Ride’s astronaut suit and keepsakes from an NFL superstar’s career.
“Part of what makes the auction world compelling is it touches upon so many different areas of interest,” Rose says. “Of course, you have fine art. But you also have rock, sports and movie memorabilia, personal effects of historical figures, fossils and more.
“The list is endless. And every object has a story.”
The Art of More
- Available for streaming beginning Thursday