Christie’s Raises Its Buyer’s Premiums for the Third Time in Less Than Three Years

Buying at the auction house will become more expensive starting February 1.

Bidding for David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) , 1972, which was offered with no reserve price at Christie's post-war and contemporary evening sale in November 2018. Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

For the third time since 2016, Christie’s is raising buyer’s premiums, surpassing in nearly all categories the fees charged by rival auction houses Sotheby’s and Phillips.

The fee hike, which goes into effect today, February 1, may be the auction house’s attempt to mitigate the effects of what could be a soft year for the art market. When reached for comment, a spokesperson said: “Christie’s will continue to manage its costs closely in order to minimize the impact of these additional fees on our clients.”

Auction houses typically charge graded fees, with the highest premiums tacked onto the lowest-priced items. More highly priced objects generally command smaller fees from the buyer. 

At Christie’s, where buyer’s premiums are graded across three tiers, the new fee for works sold in the top tier (above $4 million in New York and above £3 million in London) will now be 13.5 percent of the hammer price, up from 12.5 percent. At Sotheby’s, the fee is 12.9 percent. Phillips charges 12.5 percent.

Although premiums for the lower two tiers have not increased, Christie’s has rearranged the fee structure. Previously, items sold for $250,000 or less in New York commanded a fee of 25 percent of the hammer price. Now, that threshold will rise to $300,000. In London, the same fee will be charged for works costing up to £225,000, up from £175,000.

Christie's new buyer's premiums, effective February 1, 2019. Courtesy Christie's.

Christie’s new buyer’s premiums, effective February 1, 2019. Courtesy Christie’s.

Fees will also rise across all other Christie’s locations, except Shanghai, where the auction house will continue to charge a flat 20 percent fee on all objects sold.

Christie’s previously raised fees in September 2017 and September 2016. The 2016 increase was the first in three years.

The auction house’s chief competitors, Sotheby’s and Phillips, have not responded to their rival’s fee hike. Both auctions houses declined to comment on any plans to raise their respective fees in the future.

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