London’s February Auctions Postponed to Avoid Clash With Chinese New Year

All three major houses wish to encourage the Asian market.

Estimates help give context for bidders at auction. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Three major auction houses have changed the dates of their February London auctions from the start of the month to the end of February and beginning of March, thus avoiding a clash with the week-long public holiday for Chinese New Year.

This isn’t a first. This past fall, Frieze London changed its dates so as to avoid clashing with the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, and the auction houses followed suit. Now, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips have all announced that they will be moving their auction dates to accommodate the Chinese market in a sign of commitment to the region.

Christie’s led the trend stating that they would be altering their dates at a press conference on their New York auctions in Mid-November, according to the Art Newspaper.

“In 2017, Christie’s will continue to create dynamic ‘marquee’ weeks where collectors can convene and engage with works of art across categories and price bands,” a Christie’s spokesperson told artnet News in a statement via email. “In order to better accommodate our global client base, particularly considering the timing of the Chinese New Year holiday, Christie’s London marquee weeks devoted to 20th Century Art will take place in the last week of February and the first week of March.”

Sotheby’s and Phillips also then announced a date change in line with that of Christie’s, stating that their reasons were due to everyone being worn out after the fall art season which culminates in December with Art Basel Miami Beach, as well as the fact that the new dates would no longer rule out those celebrating Chinese New Year.

Phillips are staging their first sales in Hong Kong this week and are looking to expand further.

“You cannot underestimate the importance of Asian buyers at auction and increasingly as consigners too,” Matt Carey-Williams, Phillips’ deputy chairman of Europe and Asia told TAN. “Twenty years ago their footprint was very small in terms of Western contemporary art, now it’s huge. When Ed [Dolman] took over at Phillips, one of his primary objectives was to establish a base in Hong Kong.”

Sotheby’s has a long history in the region, having opened an office in Shanghai in 1994. It held its first exhibition there in 1995, and the company’s relationship with China continues to solidify. Most recently, in July, Chinese insurance company Chen Dongsheng became Sotheby’s largest stakeholder, buying a 13.5 percent stake in the company.

Whether this move creates change in the shape of higher sales is yet to be seen. It follows huge investment by many western galleries and arts organizations in Shanghai art week earlier this month indicating a stronger relationship with China and the Asian market going forward.

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