Christie’s First Open Sale Offers Online and Offline Auction Hybrid

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In recent years, Christie’s inaugurated its First Open sale in an effort to combine online and offline auction platforms. This year’s Spring sale, which kicked off on February 26, offers 350 lots running the gamut of Post War and Contemporary Art, and takes place in New York, London and…online.

This online and offline auction hybrid is an interesting concept in our technology-driven times. While auction houses are trying to embrace their online capabilities, still, they are unwilling to completely turn their backs on the traditional offline auction experience with a viewing, reception and other events to woo collectors. It is a fine balancing act, one that will increasingly be at the forefront of the art sale debate.

The important questions remain: will this hybrid online/offline auction model soon become status quo? Will the move towards digital eclipse in-room auctions completely or is hybrid the new normal?

Though there might have been an initial reluctance to make the digital move, it seems Christie’s is now making all the right baby steps. With the online art market growing, merging both platforms is the natural step forward. The future for the big auctions houses is digital, sure, but not yet. For now it’s a bit of both.

Gerhard Richter, Mustangs (2005).  Photo: londonartreviews.com

Gerhard Richter, Mustangs (2005).
Photo: londonartreviews.com

Bidders on the sale will be able to view works both online and on the walls of Christie’s Rockefeller hub. All works were exhibited at the Rockefeller Center Galleries from February 29—March 3. For the New York sale, works will be available for special viewing upon request on Wednesday, March 4 and Thursday, March 5.

There is added value in combining both experiences. The auction house is able to tap into a range of collectors: the ripe buyers looking at emerging art online, and the seasoned collector who comfortably walks into viewing rooms and expects or wants a social dimension the art buying and selling experience.

Andy Warhol, Triple Dollar Sign  (1981-1982).  Photo: christies.com

Andy Warhol, Triple Dollar Sign (1981-1982).
Photo: christies.com

The First Open series features a range of works by artists including Jean Dubuffet, Keith Haring, Richard Prince, Gerhard Richter and Andy Warhol. Contemporary artists also included in the show, such as Rashid Johnson, Oscar Murillo, Sterling Ruby and Kelley Walker. Price points vary, starting at $8,000 and topping off with Andy Warhol’s Triple Dollar Sign at an estimated $750,000. Nothing over $1 million interestingly. Special works from the collection of Ruth Horwich, renowned Chicago collector, will also be available, including some of her important Alexander Calder jewelry.

Some highlights from the New York sale include a Picasso-esque Jim Nutt entitled Gulf, a photographic print by Gerhard Richter depicting Mustang planes, a first-time offering of Jon Pestoni’s work and a piece emblazoned with the word “love” by Chinese pop singer turned painter Ai Jing that is part of her I Love Color series.

Ai Jing, I Love Color #9 (2014). Photo: christies.com

Ai Jing, I Love Color #9 (2014).
Photo: christies.com

Online, Bianca Chu, specialist and head of the sale in London, offers some of her top picks, which include a canopy work by Norwegian artist Fredrik Vaerslev, Warhol Flowers by Sturtevant and a humbly priced Italian Tabloid by Brendan Lynch, member of Brooklyn-based The Still House Group. We asked Ms. Chu via e-mail which lot she is most excited about for the London sale. Here’s what she had to say:

“Picking a favorite is impossible! We spend so much time with the works that every week I think I have a new favorite. We are very pleased to be offering a group of artworks from an important private Asian collection, which includes artists such as Lee Ufan and Yayoi Kusama. This season we have introduced to the London sale the first ever crowd-sourced auction initiative in collaboration with the online fine art social media platform, ArtStack: the eight finalists, selected by panel from the over 11,000 entries to the competition, are all brilliant artists who are coming to auction for the first time.”

Last year’s First Open sale totaled $11,652,625, and featured the work of Mark Flood, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Wade Guyton, with an impressive work by Nikolai Makarov setting the world auction record for the artist at $125,000, or $118,000 over its estimate.

The online auction opened February 26 and runs until March 10. The New York segment opens this Friday, March 6 and London commences on March 26.


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