Christie’s Shakes Up Its Old Masters Week Schedule and Some People Are Not Happy

Will a new spring sale help bolster results?

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio Boy Peeling a Fruit (1591) Photo: Christie's via Art Daily

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Boy Peeling a Fruit (1591).
Photo: Christie’s via Art Daily.

Following a rough Old Master sale this past January, during which a Canaletto and a Caravaggio failed to sell, Christie’s has announced big changes to the 2016 sale schedule.

Rather than hold a main Old Master paintings sale in late January, during the same week in which Sotheby’s holds its sale, Christie’s has announced Classic Art Week, a new themed week of sales which will take place in New York in April. This will include Old Master paintings, sculpture, antiquities, and Christie’s signature “Exceptional Sale” of decorative arts.

The centerpiece of the series is a new curated sale, boldly titled “Revolution,” which will include masterworks from the 18th century to the 20th century including paintings, drawings, prints, photography and sculpture that “will explore the radical social, political, and artistic changes that defined this period of history.”

In a release, Christie’s global president Jussi Pylkkänen said, “We have spoken to the collectors, art dealers and museum curators in these fields and so many are supportive of this new Classic Art Week concept and April provides the perfect moment in the auction calendar. The series promises to invigorate interest in these wonderful fields that are the DNA of the art market.”

The house cited its success in shaking up the May sales calendar by introducing a “cross category, 20th century sale week introduced in May 2015 as proof of concept for this new approach, which prioritizes curate sales and exhibitions.”

Not everyone agrees though, with Marion Manker of Art Market Monitor flagging London Old Master dealer Bendor Grosvenor’s disappointment on his blog, Art History News, in an October 12 post: “I heard about this a while ago, but couldn’t quite believe it.”  Grosvenor continues, “The New York sales are usually stronger in January, and London’s in July, and the wider market is pretty much geared up around those dates. But no more.”

Grosvenor added: “For the last few January sales, Sotheby’s has decisively won the contest, with higher sales figures and better offerings. I hope Christie’s are not blaming the calendar for their apparent inability to compete.” He added that he hopes “this move does not lead to a deterioration in the wider New York Old Master market.”

An Old Master & 19th century drawings sale will take place on January 28 at Christie’s in New York.


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