Home Magazine Sotheby's and Christie's auctions: London calls Paris

While the most important auction houses develop new sales strategies to chase collectors all over the world, the market is cautious and lacking in enthusiasm, struggling between flops and unsold in some cases. 

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The two most crucial evenings of the season for contemporary art auctions in Europe were recently held. Sotheby's and Christie's tried to react to the Covid crisis developing new formulas. Indeed, they decided to connect their London and Paris headquarters through a virtual bridge during the two latest auctions of modern and contemporary art: Mondernités / Contemporary at Sotheby's on October 21stand 20th Century London to Paris Sale Series at Christie's on October 22nd. 


Christie's October Acutions.


According to Christie's CEO, Guillaume Cerutti, the pandemic crisis provided the possibility of accelerating the digital switchover, allowing more freedom to auction houses to schedule sales. Indeed, streaming coordinated auctions widen the target audience (200,000 people followed Christie's streaming). However, what gets lost is the excitement of the public in the hall, and the the thrilling moments during the many collectors’ battles to win the lot. But above all, since it is complicated to travel, there is no way for collectors to personally see the works for, and this may contribute to leaving lots unsold, as stated by Mariolina Bassetti, the head of the European Post-War and Contemporary Art department at Christie's.

The auctions did not excel in sales: few lots sold above the maximum estimate value compared to many sold below the minimum value. Many unsold lots. Sotheby's put 89 lots up for sale between the Modernités auction in Paris and the Contemporary sale in London: 8 above the maximum estimate, 28 below the minimum estimate and 16 unsold. Christie's in the 20th Century double auction (Paris Avant-garde and London Post-War and Contemporary Art) offered for sale 57 lots, 14 above the maximum estimate, 17 below the minimum estimate and 6 unsold, while among the 31 lots in the Thinking Italian Art auction there were 6 above the maximum estimate (2 well above), 6 below and 13 unsold. 

Curiously enough, although these auctions were broadcast online, few bids were received via the two companies' websites and very few works were awarded as a result of such bids. Finally, even with this double relay Paris-London, the most significant sales were made either in the English sections of the auctions or by sales agents at the desks of the English capital.


Christie’s: Lot 112 – Peter DoigBoiler House, 1993.


Cover image: Portrait of Sir David Webster (1971) di David Hockney.

Written by Giulia Cami 

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