As the coronavirus crisis continues to eat its way further into the art market calendar, Christie's has scrapped its major New York evening sales, postponed from this week until the week of 22 June, in favour of one, multi-location "relay" sale.
ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century on 10 July will take place in Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York and combine Impressionist and Modern, post-war and contemporary art and design. The four consecutive sessions, starting in Hong Kong, will be taken by an auctioneer in each location and live-streamed.
A Christie's spokeswoman says: "The new relay format replaces the sales scheduled the week of 22 June, and we felt is an innovative solution that is right for the moment. It will engage our clients globally, offering a live experience, where possible, and maximising our online capabilities."
With much uncertainty still surrounding the easing of lockdowns globally, this "adaptable" hybrid format, which Christie's says will be presented "to both in-person and online audiences", appears a canny move. In a statement, Christies's says each city "will host a pre-sale public exhibition staged in line with the appropriate regional health advice at the time" and that "bidders will be able to participate both online, via Christie’s LIVE online bidding channel, and where regional, government advice allows, clients and phone bidders will be welcomed in each saleroom location".
Giovanna Bertazzoni, the co-chairman of Impressionist and Modern art, says: “This hybrid-format concept sale is a way to adapt and innovate." Alex Rotter, Christie's chairman of post-war and contemporary art, adds the auction house is "reconfiguring" the way it works as "virtual and physical worlds [are] rapidly merging".
Christie's is still consigning for the sale, but highlights so far include, in New York, Pablo Picasso’s Les femmes d'Alger (version 'F'), 17 January 1955, estimated in the region of $25m and previously in the collections of Sally and Victor Ganz then Daniel and Eleanore Block Saidenberg, and Ed Ruscha's six-foor-high Annie, 1962 (estimate $20m-$30m). The Hong Kong offering will include Zao Wou-Ki’s huge red painting, 21.10.63 (estimate in excess of $10m).
In London in early July, Christie's will now stage its seven Classic Week auctions—which include Old Masters, 19th century art, sculpture, furniture and works of art—online, not as live events.
Sotheby's, meanwhile, still intends to go ahead with its New York 20th century sales (originally scheduled for this week) in the week beginning 29 June, "pending the lifting of certain restrictions and confirmation from the relevant authorities that we can proceed," a statement says. "Clients and visitors can expect extra precautions to ensure the safety of our employees and visitors, as well as creative opportunities for those wishing to preview our exhibitions and participate in our auctions – from in-person and virtual appointment viewings to enhanced digital experiences. We will announce a more a detailed schedule in due course, including relevant exhibition plans."
Highlights from the Sotheby's sales include Francis Bacon's Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981) estimated in excess of $60m and Roy Lichtenstein's White Brushstroke In (1965), estimated between $20m-$30m.