Christie’s is a British auction house founded by James Christie in 1766; its headquarters are in London United Kingdom. Christie’s has been staging numerous auction sales of different art and collectibles worldwide and has been able to break records. On Wednesday, Christie’s did as per the norm and staged yet another sale that was described as “unbelievably strong” by London based dealer Anthony Crichton-Stuart of Agnews Gallery.
There was strong bidding in the room and via phones that led the house to a $40m sale (with fees) that included works from New York Dealer Richard Feigen’s collection. The total came in north of the pre-sale high estimate of $34.1m; 79% of lots found buyers. Immediately following was a sale of 25 works from the estate of the venerated late dealer Herman Shickman and his wife Lila that brought $10.5m, just above the pre-sale low estimate of $9.9m, also with 79% selling.
The sale was led by record prices of $10m for a Double Portrait by Jan Sanders Van Hemessen’s, almost tripling his previous high of $3m and $6.5m by Jan Van Der Hamen Y Leon still Life smashing his previous high $1.1m. In addition, Annibale Carracci’s Madonna & Child with Saint Lucy and the Young Saint John the Baptist sold at $6m doubling from its previous high of $3.4m. Lorenzo Monaco’s “Prophet Isaiah” realized $3.6m doubling its previous auction.
New York based dealer Henry V Zimet of French & Company placed the winning bid on a Willem Kalf still life with the price $2.8m more than tripling Kalf’s previous record. Zimet however thought it was a great deal although they thought it might go for twice as much.
A Luis Melendez still life; Artichokes and tomatoes in a landscape,estimated at up to $4m was withdrawn from the sale and sold privately, on the other hand a Fra Bartolomeo Madonna and Child tagged at up to $2.5m was not bought by anyone.
Old Masters brought $905m at public sales last year, a number that was more or less the same as that in 2008 and 2009 but down drastically from a high of $2.13bn in 2011.
Auctions are not all about record-breaking and the great deals; they are also accompanied by different challenges including the problem of supply and dealers feeling the need to increase demand by luring younger buyers to get on board. Auctions require a bit of energy in order to hype the bidders; different auction houses acquire different ways of making the sale “interesting,” for instance Sotheby’s which is Christie’s main competitor recently recruited Victoria Beckham aka Posh Spice to hype an Old Master sale. Dealer Nicholas Hall partnered with Modern and contemporary titan David Zwirner to mount an exhibition at Zwirner’s New York gallery last year.
Christie’s has de-emphasised the “old” in Old Masters rebranding its spring sales as Classics Week in order to attract the social media audience. Christie’s has made many notable auctions including the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller which realized the highest total for a private collection and became the most significant charitable auction ever realizing $835.1m in May 2018 and the November 2017 sale of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi that sold for $450.3m including buyer’s premium among many others notable auctions.