Taking the business of art online, the Christie's way

Taking the business of art online, the Christies way

What has been locked down globally is the physical art exhibitions, the thrill of an auction saleroom and the everydayness of being part of a bustling art collector community

What has been locked down globally is the physical art exhibitions, the thrill of an auction saleroom and the everydayness of being part of a bustling art collector community.

But with auction houses increasingly reconfiguring and going virtual, online sales are contributing significantly in keeping the art business up and running.

A case in point is British auction house, Christie's, that not only increased the volume of its online sales by 73 percent between January and July 2020, compared with the same period in 2019, but will go on to offer a spectacular 28-carats D colour diamond ring, with an estimate of USD 1–2 million, in their Jewels online sale which opens in June -- "the highest value lot ever offered online setting a new benchmark to the online market".

"In the olden days, online and online-only sales generated just a quarter of our turnover. This is going to change. This is the moment of truth for online sales.

Christie's will continue to invest in online sales and our digital experience, recognizing that this is our primary channel for attracting new buyers and bidders," Dirk Boll, President Christie's EMEA said in an online press briefing. He noted that with no live sales, the business of art has moved online and more and more people are looking to buy art online.

On July 10, the auction house is introducing a new, inventive format of online auction, open to both in-person and online audiences in its 'ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century'.

Utilizing streaming technology, this will be relay-style auction in real time across the time zones from four of the art world's major hubs: New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong.

"Our strong activity in online sales and private sales, along with a strict cost management and the financial stability of our organisation, will help Christie's to face the impact of the current crisis.

While our live auctions this Spring have been suspended or postponed due to the COVID-19 situation, we have immediately adapted our offerings by undertaking a great expansion of our online-only sales.

Similarly, demand for Private Sales is very strong, with activity in the first quarter up 27 percent from 2019, and transactions ranging from USD 30,000 to USD 35 million."

"These expanding activities, along with a strict management of our costs, will allow us to overcome the unprecedented challenge imposed on our economies by COVID-19," a message from Guillaume Cerutti, Christie's CEO said.

On the status of their offices around the world, Christie's said that they "are progressively reopening offices around the world".

According to Bertold Muller, Managing Director EMEA, Christie's is open in Asia. Its Mumbai office, however, remains closed and Muller said the organisation is expecting a reopening in June with a cautious approach. Mumbai stands highly-affected due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In Continental Europe and the Middle East, select offices are open in Amsterdam, Geneva, Tel Aviv, Vienna, and Zurich. In the United Kingdom and the Americas, offices remain closed other than to essential staff in their UK headquarters.

In the UK, the company is working to reopen their London King Street office from June. In Paris in particular, preparations are underway for their live sales to resume at Avenue Matignon galleries from May 26, according to Christie's authorities.

In the coming months, the auction house said it will partner with amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, to raise critical funds for COVID-19 research through a dedicated auction this summer entitled 'From the Studio', featuring works donated by collectors and artists.

"Through this tough period, it is our passion for art and objects that is helping to sustain us all," the Christie's CEO signed off.

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