A Man Named Ammann | Avenue Magazine Column


by Asher Edelman

August 11, 2018

At one time a collector in need of a large sum of money sold Thomas Ammann, the Zurich-based art dealer, a substantial portfolio of art works: a Picasso, multiple Klines, Mirós, Rauschenbergs, and Twomblys and a particularly special Jasper Johns.

A year later at dinner with Thomas, this then-well-known collector asked him how he had fared with the purchases. Had he sold them? Had he made a nice profit? Was he happy? 

“Wonderfully,” Thomas replied, and thanked the collector for the opportunity. 

“What did you do with the Johns?” the collector then asked. Johns had dramatically increased in value that year. 

“I saved it for you as I knew how much you loved the painting,” Thomas replied. 

The collector, again cash rich and now, happy as could be, responded. “Okay, whatever the price, thank you, and I’ll buy it back.” 

Said Ammann, “My money cost me 6 percent. The painting will be delivered back to you tomorrow. Please pay me my cost plus 6%.” And with that, he gave away close to a million dollars out of friendship.

I was the collector. 

A good soul, Thomas. Early this summer, leafing through the catalog of Ammann’s Zurich Gallery’s 1987 exhibit of selected works from my collection, I was struck by the contrast between how art was dealt with then and what art dealers have to be today. Thomas epitomized knowledge, taste, elegant manners and thoughtfulness; today’s bar is set not much higher than the street peddler. 

We forget our friends too quickly. 

Ammann, en route to becoming the most revered dealer of impressionist, modern and contemporary art in history, passed away in 1993 at the age of 43. He’d had a brief but brilliant career. At the tender age of 18, it began with the contemporary art dealer Bruno Bischofberger. Eight years later, Thomas struck out on his own with the backing of the Schmidheiny fortune. Shortly, he became the dealer to the most important collections in the world, from Niarchos to Lauder, buying and selling works from Van Gogh through Warhol. A master of his trade with taste and a brilliant eye, his talent for dealing was unsurpassed in the 20th century. 

Thomas was a practical chap. No warehouse visits for his clients. Until he bought his New York apartment he had the good sense to show art for sale at Andy Warhol’s house, my apartment and the homes of other, more important collectors. After all, why not surround the presentation of beautiful objects with other beautiful objects. 

Art dealers often bemoan the paucity of important works for sale. Not Thomas. Dealers and collectors vied for his attention. For collectors like Ernst Beyeler, dealers like Mary Boone, and artists, living and dead, from Picasso to Ross Bleckner, Thomas was the chosen purveyor of all that was excellent, the go-to dealer of his time.

One night in the eighties Thomas, my then wife and a group of party folks visited La Escuelita, a Latin American drag nightclub south of Times Square. At about three in the morning, we dropped Thomas off at his hotel. Eleven the next morning, I got a call. 

Thomas, who never discussed his love life with his friends, was on the phone: “When I left you I was restless and went to Boy Bar”—a Lower East Side pickup joint popular on the gay scene. “I think I have met the love of my life, a Greek boy studying in the U.S.,” he said. His name was George Kontouris and he and Thomas were together until Thomas’ death in 1993. George died shortly after that. 

Like their love affair, Thomas Ammann’s life was too short and too little is said, too little remembered of my friend. 

Part of that’s because he was so intensely private. He had a social façade—he was ubiquitous, always with the right people—but the fact of the matter is none of them really knew him. His preferences have, I fear, damaged his legacy. 

Outwardly lacking passion, but inwardly, quite the opposite, he valued beauty and gentility along with the profit motive. We could use more of his kind today.


Bubbles and Tulips 2018 Follow Up


Dear Friends,
On December 26th, 2017 I sent you a cautionary tale for the New Year, rating markets by Tulips (Dutch ones). The more the Tulip count the greater probability of disaster.

December 26, 2017

Dear Friends,

A cautionary tale for 2018. Sorry! We are in a world of “fake markets” built on “fake news” and “fake expectations.”


December 26, 2017 – As those of you who have tried know you cannot efficiently spend Bitcoins. There is no protection against theft, fraud or other forms of destruction of one’s investment. Money laundering, not a favorite of government agencies, runs rampant as there are no reporting or other requirements. One would guess rogue nations, arms dealers, hackers and all types of fraudsters make use of the system. We rate the Bitcoin 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – Bitcoin price $6,355. I have changed my rating for Bitcoin 🌷🌷🌷

As it had already declined more than 50% in the New Year. Not a buy sign, but one of cautionary bearishness.


December 26, 2017 – Though statistics indicate a slight decline in prices from the high point in the market, anecdotal observation tells us the prices of middle to high priced categories of residential real estate have declined by as much as 20% prior to the recent tax bill. Now with interest and state taxes virtually non deductible the interest in owning multimillion dollar town houses, condominiums and coops is substantially reduced. Loans on private housing, after ranging as high as 80% of appraised value are quietly going underwater while Wall Street bonuses (bond traders at zero for 2017) shrink and disappear. Foreigners show less and less interest in buying in New York (U.S.A) for a myriad of reasons starting with privacy. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – The decline in the New York real estate continues reinforced by the resistance of foreigners, bond traders, bankers et al to purchase New York real estate. Non deductibility of state and city taxes and limitations on interest deductions are not pluses. 80% loan to value in many instances is a killer. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷



December 26, 2017 – The new tax plan will reduce disposable income available to the poor, middle and upper middle classes – especially homeowners in highly taxed states. It will deprive eight million poor children of medical care. Eventually it will affect social security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, all benefits that are now available to the lower income through the upper middle class income levels. In the initial stages of the tax plan incomes from $50,000 to $200,000 will be reduced according to the housing, interest and state tax situation of the families. These families, though low on the wealth scale, account for 95% of wages earned in the United States. This broad category of earners spends 100% or close to 100% of all income received. Though Trump/Munchin/Cohen statistics contemplate a 2.9% growth in 2018 consumer spending, more analytical, less political estimates contemplate little or no growth with an increase in inflation and interest rates not a great consumer product scenario. 🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – Add to the mix the Trump tariffs and those reciprocal to his tariffs, the cut off of major portions of world trade and we need to move to five Tulips. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷


December 26, 2017 – The U.S. is likely to be cut back on exports and on the imports of inexpensive raw materials – 2018 will be the start of serious isolation from world trade. 🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – The new tariff war and the break down of world trade (insulation) brings me to a five Tulips rating. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

stock exchange.jpgSTOCK MARKET

December 26, 2017 – Supported through the Trump first year by government intervention, “The Plunge Protection Plan”, the market will continue to depend on government intervention. Underlying economic and financial fundamentals are unlikely to feed the bull. Should Pence replace Trump the market ego trip and government support are likely to stop. 🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – As Trumps popularity declines and a new House of Representatives sits with the continued threat of impeachment it is likely the Plunge Protection plan (entirely controlled by the Executive (President) will be used less and less to prop up the stock market. I am moving to five Tulips. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷



December 26, 2017 – Not a chance 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – Same call. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷



December 26, 2017 – The highest risk low return vehicle offered in years. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – Seems to have faded into the desert. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

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December 26, 2017 – Fake Renoir favored by our lustful leader. Over the last couple of years the top of the market has been frothy while the rest has been lackluster. How will coming transparency, regulation and taxation affect the prices and liquidity of art? More about that in a forthcoming column which will be published regularly in an exciting magazine beginning in March.

July 11, 2018 – See my Avenue Magazine column of the past month. (LINK)


For your bubble exposure in 2018 drink Champagne, stay liquid, avoid all other bubbles.



Asher Edelman



A Toast To Moss | Avenue Magazine Column



by Asher Edelman

In his new book Please Do Not Touch (and Other Things You Could Not Do at Moss the Design Store that Changed Design), its namesake and co-owner Murray Moss quotes the Czech architect and designer Bořek Šípek: “The only real justification for the designer to create another chair is if he treats it like a work of art and uses it to express or interrupt the culture of the moment.”

A similar notion started Murray’s successful quest to merge “design” into “art” at MOSS, the design store. It was 1990. The rest is history.


MOSS literally rubbed shoulders with Art and the Art Audience. Murray opened his “gallery” in SoHo between Metro Pictures and Pace. Their clients would see his “Art” in the windows of MOSS. It was the design store that changed design and how it was labeled. Ever since, great design has ceased to be a stepchild: it’s become great art.

Murray and his partner, Franklin Getchell, have been my close friends for almost 40 years. All I have to say about this extraordinary book and these wonderful “boys” (yes, still boys) is highly colored by that reality. Sadly, there is, within, a chapter about me. I think it is best you skip that chapter. Those pages are grossly exaggerated fiction, not worthy of the authors. So high is that chapter’s unreality that I have commissioned them to write my obituary with the same fictional license. In summary, DO NOT READ the chapter.

Most of you know about MOSS, the design theater, though nominally a store, a university of taste, a fantasy land always in action, serving up tasty morsels for grown-ups. I need not tell you more about MOSS, nor about Murray and Franklin, nor is this a book review. Rather, it’s a small collection of vignettes, and there are infinitely more to be discovered reading Please Do Not Touch.


MOSS, the acknowledged premium curated design store of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, lighted upon a novel idea: a wedding registry—complete with a proper registrar to tend to the couples. Murray, who had no interest in decanters, was persuaded by the registrar to stock decanters for the lovebirds’ needs. And MOSS became a “decanter center.” Sadly, it seemed a habit of newlyweds to return most of the decanters and most everything else they registered for, too. So the boys invented a new registry model: automatic prereturns of all “registry account” orders and a credit to the bride and groom. The happy couple was informed of the purchase, the purchaser, the credit to the account, and the nature of the “prereturned” gift. Our lovebirds could then choose at leisure items they really liked rather than the ones they registered for. A thank-you note for the original gifts could be sent and MOSS did not have to carry returned inventory, as it never filled any registry orders. This is one of a number of brilliant business decisions made by Murray and Franklin, which resulted in its all-registry business vaporating instantly.

All design stores are focused on weddings—seriously a moment of excess spending for the lovebirds’ nests. MOSS followed in the footsteps of wedding providers with some quite advanced products. A first-rate seller, Gay Marriage Finger Puppets, consisting of two brides, two grooms and a minister, became a most sought-after accessory. Speaking of weddings—another conflict—I am to officiate at the wedding of these two special people. They have refused my offer of a Latin ceremony and insist on English—no costumes either.


Which does not mean they lack a sense of humor. Did you know the MOSS logo was derived from the Oscar Mayer hot dog logo?

Then, there’s the absurdity inspired by the opening of MOSS in 2006 in Los Angeles. “I don’t know exactly what form of English they’re speaking out there,” Franklin writes, “but it sure isn’t the same as mine. Dude, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with one-syllable words…there are some terrific one-syllable words and some great one-syllable word sentences. Fries with that? Can you spot me? And, of course, Have a nice day.” Or, as Franklin also says, “Life in L.A. Like death, only shorter.”

Please Do Not Touch is full of similar fun and absurdities—a double self-inflicted spoof—but, most of all, it’s the story of Murray and Franklin, my friends, and their design store that changed the face of design.


Is Stock Market Volatility Good for the Art Market?

We’re about to find out during May’s art fairs and auctions in New York.

Until January, the stock market was on an almost-unbroken bull run for nine years. Now that run appears to be ending and prominent members of the financial community are warning about the possibility of a significant correction, leaving people in the art world wrestling with whether this will affect their sales.


A decade ago, during the last financial crisis, the art market responded to the stock market with a lag of about seven months. Bear Stearns collapsed in March 2008, but the May auctions in New York that year set records. Sotheby’s held its largest sale ever; over the course of two weeks, $1.56 billion worth of art changed hands.

“By April 2008, we knew that the seams [of the stock market] were coming apart,” says Asher Edelman, a financier-turned-art dealer who founded the company ArtAssure Ltd. “Everyone who was buying and interested in art was thinking, ‘Oh, this is kind of a safe thing to do,’ and they didn’t pay attention to what was happening in the market.”
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By the time the November auctions rolled around, Lehman Brothers had filed for bankruptcy, the stock and bond markets had plummeted, and the art market had imploded.

A third of the lots at Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art evening sale went unsold. Christie’s evening sale in the same category fared even worse, with 44 percent of its lots going unsold; its total, $146.7 million, was nearly $100 million below the auction’s low estimate of $240.7 million.

The question now is: Should collectors, dealers, auction houses, curators, and everyone else who relies on the art market’s continued success, be worried?

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The market’s bull run has been sputtering just as New York is poised for record-setting art fairs (Frieze, Tefaf New York) and auctions, which include the week-long, possibly billion-dollar Rockefeller sale starting at Christie’s on May 8 and Sotheby’s May 14 Impressionist and modern art sale, in which a painting by Modigliani is carrying an estimate of $150 million.

Realizing Gains

“In my experience, when the market goes up and down, up and down, that’s good for art,” says Christophe Van de Weghe, a New York dealer who will be exhibiting at Tefaf New York next week. “Over the last 30 years, volatility has been very good for us dealers, because that’s when people want to buy a hard asset.” Art, like gold, ostensibly represents a financial safe haven during turbulent times.

Indeed, Van de Weghe says, it’s a double-plus: One group of collectors leaves the market in order to realize gains, has cash sitting around, and then puts it back into art.

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An additional group, specifically hedge fund managers (many of them Van de Weghe clients) will spend even more on art, “because they tell me that they make more money when there’s volatility in the market,” he says.

Since the market peaked in January, (the Dow is since down about 7 percent), “we’ve been selling more,” he says. “The art market has been very bullish.”

The art that Van de Weghe is bringing to Tefaf reflects that optimism: His booth will have a 1961 painting by Cy Twombly that he expects to fetch from $4 million to $5 million; a 60-inch by 60-inch painting by Keith Haring for $3.5 million; and, among other works, two paintings by Pablo Picasso, estimated, respectively, at $4.5 million and $2.85 million.

Short-Term Liquidity

Other observers have a less positive take.

“I would have given you a different answer three years ago,” says ArtAssure’s Edelman, “and that answer would have been, from observation, that roughly six months from when the stock market gives up its bull run, the art market gives up its bull run, too.”

Not because people lack the money to buy art, he adds. “Anyone who had $100 million in May 2008 still probably had $80 million that November,” he says. “These markets are driven much more by psychology than they are by economic factors.”

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Edelman’s no longer so sure about a direct correlation. Despite record gains in the stock market, he says, “the last three years have been a substantially down art market in everything but the night sales at auction.” While this sentiment is debatable—some insist that the middle of the market is doing fine—his point is that night sales are a market unto themselves.

This dim view of the current art market darkens even further if U.S. equities falter, he says. “I do not believe that when money comes out of the stock market, it goes into the art market. … [Investors] tend to run for safety and short-term liquidity.”

Art could be considered a liquid investment only if sellers were willing to get 60 percent to 70 percent of what they had paid retail, Edelman says.

“I know people like to think that [they can sell art whenever they want], because they try to make a case that the art market is safe and hard,” he says. “But I can tell you, sitting here, that it ain’t easy to sell a piece of art if you’re not putting it at auction at a reduced price.”

A Middle Ground

Other dealers such as Marc Payot, a partner and vice president of Hauser and Wirth, occupy something of a comfortable middle ground in which one man’s credit crunch is another’s opportunity.

When a slumping stock market impacts art collectors whose businesses are more exposed to volatility, he says, “that’s a moment where access to certain pieces is possible. So if you know you want a specific [artwork], a moment where the market is softer is a great time to be active.”

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Payot points to the very moment that the art market crashed in 2008-2009. “It was a panic,” he says, “but then it turned out to be a fantastic year for us, because of the opportunities for access to works.” Anyone still in the position to buy was able to jump at the material that others needed to sell (or at least thought they did).

“Art is never good for a short term [investment],” he says. “And it’s never good to sell art in the short term if you have to—but then, that’s true for everything, including real estate.”

At Tefaf, Hauser & Wirth will have have a booth featuring work by three artists—Louise Bourgeois, Philip Guston, and Eva Hesse—with prices ranging from $100,000, for a Bourgeois work on paper, to $5.5 million, for a figurative painting by Guston. At Frieze, the gallery will have a booth with a thematic collection of works from the 1980s, titled “Stop Making Sense.” Its centerpiece will be a massive sculpture by Bruce Nauman from 1980 that Payot says is priced at “over $8 million.”

For better or for worse, Payot hasn’t seen much of a change since January. “Maybe it’s a little early to say,” he says, “but we haven’t really felt any major impact from [stock] market volatility.”

“Listen,” says Van de Weghe, the New York dealer. “All I can tell you is that if there’s a correction, I want to be owning a Picasso.”


Is Stock Market Volatility Good for the Art Market? – Bloomberg

Edelman’s no longer so sure about a direct correlation. Despite record gains in the stock market, he says, “the last three years have been a substantially down art market in everything but the night sales at auction.” While this sentiment is debatable—some insist that the middle of the market is doing fine—his point is that night sales are a market unto themselves.


Avenue Magazine Column

Caveat Emptor

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Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, master of the 15th and early 16th centuries, recently resurfaced as a 21st-century bonanza. Salvator Mundi, a secondary early Renaissance painting by the master, repainted extensively in our century, sold for $450 million to a buyer bidding for the quaint little fortress of Abu Dhabi. It’s to be put on permanent display in its not-so-quaint (nor little) Western art museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, in perhaps the most stupendous example of ego-driven activity in the history of the art market. More than art, this new Louvre displays most of all the need to pay more than one’s neighbor for freshly minted contemporary art.

Mundi, contemporary by virtue of its restoration, has been sufficiently repainted to be classified a 21st-century masterpiece. Or perhaps its status derives from the price paid by a secondary Gulf state for a secondary rendition of Jesus “attributed” to the greatest artist of his time (and the greatest restorers of ours).

Now, that’s a market!

Thus, the reigning top echelon of the art world, the ego-driven sector where the 1 percent (sovereign division) and the 1 percent (wealthy division) raise their hands to show their mine’s-bigger importance, becomes the laughingstock of serious art connoisseurs. Not only because of the excessive pricing, but also because much of what they buy isn’t even first-rate. Well, okay, it’s not first-rate art but it is first-rate marketing.

Wealth is not typically a product of stupidity, nor do its possessors wish to be viewed as fools. But when mockery reveals yesterday’s ego-driven one-upmanship as today’s buffoonery, some of the less-stupid actors start getting the point.

The ego market is the art market we read about. Clearly, it’s been going up, but in the last few years the broader art market has been going down and suffering a secret liquidity crisis. The buffoon-driven market is sure to fall, too, and soon.

The sources of capital for high profile purchases are drying up. Mega-wealthy Chinese collectors openly admit they will no longer raise their paddles at Western art auctions. Money export controls and fear of government retribution have made public displays of ostentation serious no-nos in the People’s Republic.

Russian sanctions current and future, a stumbling economy, and increased scrutiny of money laundering have all but ended high-profile Russky art buying, too. In fact, Roman Abramovich, the biggest Russian buyer of Western contemporary art, and considered a close collaborator of Putin, has checked out of the market along with most of his oligarch comrades.

The professional speculators pulling the strings of the buffoons are savvy. They lead the market—they don’t follow it. The Warhol-Basquiat-Wool-Prince cabal have been selling on balance for quite a while, counting on dupes outnumbering sellers to ensure their continued profits. Unlike auction houses, dealers have had neither the liquidity nor the bad sense to allow participation in the battles of the buffoons—and they will not start now.

Then, there are the genuine collectors. One of our wealthiest hedge fund managers, who is also a great collector, committed to art but savvy as to markets, has been a constant seller in the last year or so. If I were to bet on anyone being right on the market, he’s my man.

The top of the art market is due for a serious correction, and a drying up of liquidity not dissimilar to its 1989–1995 crisis, when art prices grew by more than 150 percent before sharply declining, setting off several years of stagnation that left dealers and auction houses staggering. The market as a whole has been down for at least three years. One missing bidder saying no might move the market to calamity. A night of guarantees hit can turn the whole upper market on its bottom.

Factor buy-ins at auction and the poor performance of private secondary market sales into the art indexes, and one sees a continuous downward trend. But it will take a market crisis of duration to bring the markets back. Over 50 percent of the world’s galleries are said to lose money. The gallery-closing velocity increases markedly month by month. And the real storm has yet to begin.

Trump and his coterie have no interest in art. Donald prefers the big, fake Renoir hanging in his apartment to the real deal in the Art Institute of Chicago. Cuts in federal spending for the arts, the adverse effects of the new tax bill and the plain old bad taste of our leader and his gnomes have already begun to injure the art world.

Trump is in good company, at least. Crooks, fraudsters, fakers, defaulters, forgers, and criminals abound. To quote Judge Charles Edward Ramos of the N.Y. State Supreme Court in the case of Sotheby’s v. Shagalov: “I have never seen an industry more ripe with fraud and misconduct than the art business. To say there’s such a thing as artistic ethics is an oxymoron. Most of the cases I’ve had involving art dealers involve fraud outright, just plain old fraud.”

At my art advisory company, we receive more and more inquiries as to the efficacy of transactions and the honesty and ethics of dealers. The feds and local constabulary are onto the bad art crowd. The media is hungry for these stories. This is not a short-term plus for the market but, instead, a long-term cleanup that will bring transparency and disclosure and a rebirth for markets, collectors, connoisseurs and art lovers.


Read More at Avenue Magazine

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Breaking News

April 1, 2018

The end buyer of Leonardo’s ‘Salvator Mundi’, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, whose regime was criticized for the purchase, quickly traded the work to Mohammed Bin Zayed, defecto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, for a large yacht. A great idea for some of the other players in the “ego-market”. Just think one can trade for large houses in the Hamptons, Aspen, Palm Beach or even a simple apartment on the 100th floor of a NYC 57th street condominium. Finally, a rational reason for buying modest works of art at immodest prices. Does this foretell the next bull market, probably not!

How did this remarkable event transpire? It seems that both Mohammed Bin Salman and Mohammed Bin Zayed were concerned that their enemy, the Qatar royal family, headed by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, would be the buyer of “Salvator Mundi”. As the rulers of Saudi and Abu Dhabi did not discuss the matter between themselves, they ended up bidding against each other rather than against Qatar. The Al Thanis had actually been offered the painting a year earlier for 80 million but decided against purchasing the work – could it have been the extent of the restoration? The Saudis and Abu Dhabis, while trying to enforce sanctions imposed on Qatar actually bought “Salvator Mundi” for 450 million. “Wealth is not typically a product of stupidity…” This case, an exception? Perhaps mockery and the humor of “Salvator Mundi” purchase will remind the more intelligent players in the ego directed market of its risks.



Trump to Impose Stiff Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum

APTOPIX GOP 2016 Trump

Dear All,

We are witnessing the beginning of the end of America’s participation in international trade. The buoyant economy we have experienced since 2010 will shortly come to an abrupt halt with cost and price increases throughout the system and incomes in decline – An economic catastrophe in the making.

Asher Edelman

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WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Thursday that he will impose stiff and sweeping tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum as he moved to fulfill a key campaign promise to get tough on foreign competitors.

Mr. Trump said he would formally sign the trade measures next week and promised they would be in effect “for a long period of time.” The trade measures would impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. It is unclear whether those would apply to all imports or be targeted toward specific countries, like China, which have been flooding the United States with cheap metals.

The announcement capped a frenetic and chaotic morning inside the White House as Mr. Trump summoned more than a dozen executives from the steel and aluminum industry to the White House, raising expectations that he would announce his long-promised tariffs. However, the legal review of the trade measure was not yet complete and, as of Thursday morning, White House advisers were still discussing various scenarios for tariff levels and which countries could be included, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

Advisers have been bitterly divided over how to proceed on the tariffs, including whether to impose them broadly on all steel and aluminum imports or whether to tailor them more narrowly to target specific countries like China. Imposing tough sanctions would fulfill one of the president’s key campaign promises but could tip off trade wars around the globe as other countries seek to retaliate against the United States.

Gary D. Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, had been lobbying for months alongside others, including Defense Secretary James Mattis and Rob Porter, the staff secretary who recently resigned under pressure from the White House, to kill, postpone, or at least narrow the scope of the measures, people familiar with the discussions said.

But in recent weeks, a group of White House advisers who advocate a tougher posture on trade has been in ascendance, including Robert Lighthizer, the country’s top trade negotiator, and Peter Navarro, a trade skeptic who had been sidelined but is now in line for a promotion.

The departure of Mr. Porter, who organized weekly trade meetings and coordinated the trade advisers, and the breakdown of the typical trade advisory process has helped create a chaotic situation in which those opposing factions are no longer kept in check. The situation had descended into utter chaos and an all-out war between various trade factions, people close to the White House said.

“Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter Thursday morning. “We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!”

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The White House has come to the brink of announcing these measures several times in the past eight months, including last June. In recent days, the president appears to have grown impatient for action. In the past few days, supporters of the tariffs have also begun airing televised ads during programs that Mr. Trump has been known to watch.

But foreign governments, multinational companies and the Pentagon have continued to lobby against the measure, arguing that the proposed tariffs could disrupt economic and security ties.

Mr. Trump’s announcement came on the same day that senior administration officials are scheduled to meet with China’s top economic adviser, Liu He. The White House has been eager to clamp down on Chinese imports and has several trade measures underway.

The investigation, which was launched under an obscure measure of the trade law called Section 232, has focused on whether imports were compromising American national security by degrading the industrial base. In a report released to the public in February, the Commerce Department concluded that imports were a national security threat.

The Trump administration has already issued tariffs — it imposed restrictions on foreign washing machines and solar panels in January — but trade analysts said the announcement on steel and aluminum could be the broadest and most significant measure yet from an administration that has vowed to take a substantially different tack on trade.