But Gagosian was concerned that if others took note of his interest in the work a bidding war would ensue, so he discreetly placed his bid with the auctioneer at the reserve price.

“He hammered it down,” Gagosian said. “Not one person bid.”

The final price, including fees, was $9.6 million. The same happened with two other works, and he still owns all three.

Still Optimistic
Some of Gagosian’s galleries are starting to reopen, including in Hong Kong and Paris later this month. Selling at art fairs will be trickier.

While Art Basel moved its June edition to September, Gagosian is skeptical.

“Is that the first thing people will want to do when they start traveling, go to an art fair?” he said. “I’ve committed to my booth and I’m hoping for the best. I just don’t know. September seems like a long way away.”

Museums may also have a hard time getting back.

“They are in the business of selling tickets and attendance,” he said. “I can sell a painting on the telephone if I am lucky. Museums are participatory venues. That means you have crowds. And I don’t think people are going to be comfortable in crowds for a while.”

But Gagosian takes a longer view -- and remains an optimist.

“It’s going to be tough for a while,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t make money or create a great painting.”