16 March, 2017

Auction house Christie’s has announced that it will be closing its South Kensington saleroom and although the news of the impending closure does not have come as a great surprise, it’s still without a doubt an ‘end of an era’ moment.

Their King Street office is still thought to be safe after their chief executive, Guillaume Cerutti, said. “We are now considering consolidating into one sales site in London.”

The news of the closure is coupled with holding fewer sales in its Amsterdam rooms and as a result of the changes, there are likely to be 250 job losses, accounting for 12 percent of the total workforce, based mainly in Britain and Europe.

Mr Cerutti went on to state that the changes were being made to adapt to the market and to where their clients were, last year, 19 percent of Christie’s new buyers came from Asia and a further 39 percent were based in America.

The auction house, which is based here in London, opened flagship offices and exhibition spaces in Shanghai and Beijing in 2013 and 2016 and it will open another gallery in Los Angeles in April.

This expansion makes a lot of sense for the growth of Christie’s and going to where their clients are will only help this, staff-heavy operation in prime London real estate selling ‘affordable’ art and antiques doesn’t seem viable, especially to a firm that can turn over £200m in a single evening at Christie’s London HQ, King Street, or the Rockefeller Center in New York.

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“The art market is fast-evolving,” said Guillaume Cerutti, Christie’s chief executive. “We have been looking at the globalisation of the market in the last decade and need to be present and strong where the clients are.”

Another huge area for growth for Christie’s has been online sales, with their online auctions outnumbering live in the room events by 118 to 56 and a real sign that a shift was really underway was their decision to move their flagship Picasso ceramics sale online.

Interestingly, these 118 online sales totalled £49.8m million British pounds, which represent only around 1 percent of Christie’s total sales for the year, yet generated a third of the company’s new buyers.