Normally spending $420.9 million in under four hours would be considered a little reckless to say the least. For Christie’s, this is the future.
Impacted by the pandemic in much the same way as the remainder of the arts industry, the stakes for auction houses remain a little higher than most. Yet it seems that Christie’s has jumped at the challenge, hosting what The New York Times refers to as a “back-to-the-future” style endeavour.
Moving from Hong Kong to Paris, London to New York in a matter of hours, the sale is perhaps indicative of things to come. Yet it is not all plain sailing. Indeed, as Scott Reyburn notes: “The Covid-induced shift from live to online-only sales has severely dented turnover at the major auction houses.” For Christie’s this dent amounts to around a 60 per cent decline in the year’s second quarter when compared with the same time last year.
Co-founder of Guggenheim Asher, an art advisory company in New York, Abigail Asher, notes that for the Sotheby’s sale in June: “Everyone was holding their breath before Sotheby’s sale. There had been no public transactions of this value since February.” For her, the first sale indicates that: “This is a global buying market.”
For Nikolaus Barta, a collector and art insurer, based in Vienna, this brave new world is not without its complications. He says: “It seemed to be a great thing, but access was a little complicated, and when the Hong Kong auction was not starting half an hour late, I lost interest.”
If online auctions are to be the future of art, one hopes that the problems can be ironed out soon.