Shoved, the market auctions placing on online sales

Bousculé, le marché des enchères mise sur les ventes en ligne

Photo: Francois Guillot Agence France-Presse
Now, the auction dematerialised are the only possible ones, and the number one in the world, Christie’s has grown from 9 to over 20 sales scheduled in April and may.

Thomas Urban – Agence France-Presse and

James Pheby Agence France-Presse

New York and London

April 14, 2020

  • Visual Arts

Auction closed, teams confined, the auction houses have had to accelerate their transition to sales cloud to continue to exist on the art market, that resists rather well to the crisis of the sars coronavirus.

One at a time, the big sales of the spring, which attract thousands of buyers from around the world in London, New York or Hong Kong, have been progressively reported since the beginning of march, depriving the auction, at least temporarily, a time strong brew, usually billions of dollars.

No physical sales major is not expected before June at the major players in the sector.

“We would like to thank the sky for having the auction online,” says Giles Peppiatt, head of modern and contemporary art of africa for the british house Bonhams.

For several years already, in phase with the digitization of the economy and practices, the world of the auctions had started to invest heavily in online sales.

Now, the auction dematerialised are the only possible ones, and the number one in the world, Christie’s has grown from 9 to over 20 sales scheduled in April and may, said Jennifer Zatorski, president of Christie’s America, during a conference call.

Augmented reality

“And this is only the beginning, she assured. The art market and our customers are ready and applicants of this form of interaction and transaction. “

With the closure of the exhibition spaces physical, several houses now offer to purchasers of the virtual galleries, with the ability to view the work at 360°, or augmented reality, which allows to realize, with his smart phone, that would give a painting or sculpture at home.

The results of on-line sales already made are encouraging. Sotheby’s has beaten, at the end of march, the record for a sale of design objects entirely online.

On Friday, the american house Julien’s has sold online, the original manuscript of the Beatles song Hey Jude to 910 000 US$, more than five times the high estimate (180 000 US$).

“We have not seen prices drop, or drop in appetite from buyers,” says Jussi Pylkkänen, president of Christie s.

“The sad reality is that art survives the disaster,” says Kathryn Brown, a specialist in the economics of art at the british university of Loughborough.


Online sales do not intimidate most collectors, assures Edward Dolman, ceo of Phillips, third world house.

The amounts, however, remain modest compared to what won in the halls and exceeds very rarely five million dollars per occurrence, while a single evening during the sales of the spring can reach several hundreds of millions of dollars.

For the moment, the big sales of the spring are only carried forward but Guillaume Cerutti, director-general of Christie’s, is already considering several scenarios in the event that they could not be held in late June in New York, as expected.

“We have three solutions “, he explained during a conference call. “You push again, it goes online or to explore the possibility to complete the sale elsewhere. “

Propose major works only online would be a revolution for homes, which saw up here digital sales as a complement to the main offer.

“The buyers tend to bid a little more freely, at a sale in the room, argues Giles Peppiatt. They are taken by the moment, the drama, the theatrics. “

“Rebuild” the market

For parts of high value, the sector is, for the moment, slouched on private sales.

In a private sale, the house is looking directly a buyer for the seller. The latter may withdraw if the proposed price does not suit him and not to expose him, therefore, not to hazard that presents a public sale.

This surge in private sales is pretty common in times of economic uncertainty “, says David Schrader, in charge of this activity for Sotheby s.

Christie’s has sold recently by this way a work for 30 million pounds, revealed Adrien Meyer, head of private sales.

“This is a good way to continue to work with those who want to perform operations during this period,” stresses Edward Dolman, Phillips, who is going to open a virtual gallery dedicated to private sales.

Most professionals already know, the episode coronavirus will have lasting consequences for the art market and the homes for auction.

“There will be a back to basics,” predicts Guillaume Cerutti, “mainly with sales of smaller size, at least at the beginning,” in a market that it will be necessary to ” rebuild “.

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