Listen To The Children

Jerusalem wide shot for 60 OT 10/17/10
Anyone who knows me or is familiar with this column probably would guess that I follow sports scores a lot more closely than I do art auctions. Nonetheless, one of my favorite recent news stories involved Christie's, Sotheby's, and more than $20 million worth of art. Takashi Hashiyama, president of a Japanese electronics firm, couldn't decide which auction house to use to unload the company's art collection. Did he ask them to enter a bidding war? Did he split the collection between the two auction houses? Did he ask around to find out which one had the fastest-talking auctioneer? No. He decided to use a decision-making process that kids have been using for generations: rock, paper, scissors.

In case you've been living under a rock — or a paper or scissors — in this game, rock breaks scissors, scissors cuts paper, and paper smothers rock. What I love about Hashiyama's decision to use a children's method to decide the fate of all this art and money is that it was so pure, so fair, and so much more fun than having some MBAs making a bunch of charts based on some fancy theories.

Sotheby's decided to leave its decision to chance, and had no particular strategy. Christie's, on the other hand, turned to some experts: the children of their international director of the impressionist and modern art department. The 11-year-old twin daughters immediately told their dad to go with scissors. Their reasoning was that, "Rock is way too obvious, and scissors beats paper." So, Christie's chose scissors, Sotheby's chose paper, scissors "cut" paper and Christie's got the deal.