NEW YORK — Union workers and Occupy Wall Street activists gave a rough welcome Wednesday to well-heeled Sotheby’s clients as they arrived in limousines to attend an auction of contemporary art in New York.
More than 100 protestors screamed abuse and blew ear-splitting whistles as men in suits and streams of thin women in expensive jewels and high-heels entered the glass-faced Sotheby’s building in Manhattan.
“Shame on you!” they chanted. And: “You don’t deserve it!”
The demonstration was organized by unionized art handlers at Sotheby’s, who say they’ve been locked out of the company during contract negotiations. Their numbers were bolstered by members of the Occupy Wall Street protest, which is centered on a camp in a park in the Financial District.
The atmosphere became hostile as enraged demonstrators yelled at the elegantly clad art collectors, forcing them to walk the gauntlet under escort of police and black-suited Sotheby’s security staff.
A huge blow-up rat and another blow up effigy representing a “fat cat” clutching a worker dominated the sidewalk, while Sotheby’s employees looked anxiously out from the glass-walled lobby.
“Art for the masses, not the upper classes,” protestors yelled.
Protestor Ellen Friedland, who works for a non-profit group helping immigrants, said she came to oppose “union busting tactics…. It’s another way to undermine working people in this country.”
The deafening whistling, trumpeting and yelling penetrated into the Sotheby’s building. But once up in the cavernous main auction room on the 7th floor, the only sound was that of the auctioneer selling Andy Warhols, Damien Hirsts and other mega-stars of the contemporary art market.