With chips down and stakes high, Sotheby's is to open a seasonal private sales gallery in the resort of Monte-Carlo on 1 July.
The two-storey space on Avenue de la Costa will be the auction house's first pop-up space in Europe. The successful launch of similar US spaces last year in the wealthy enclaves of East Hampton and Palm Beach has prompted Sotheby's to replicate the model across the Atlantic, says Michael Gumener, the recently appointed senior director, international private sales.
It will expand Sotheby's current operations in Monaco, where it has maintained an office for over 50 years. The gallery, which will be open during the summer months, will host a rotating selection of Modern and contemporary art with its first exhibition showing works by Picasso, Picabia and Condo alongside mid-20th century Italian artists such as Fontana and Burri.
Sotheby's decision to open up shop in the Mediterranean principality follows in the footsteps of several international commercial galleries such as Hauser & Wirth and Koenig, which last week opened a by-appointment-only showroom at Villa Nuvola. And last week, Christie’s announced it will stage a selling exhibition of contemporary art and jewellery in Monte-Carlo from 3-18 July at the Cipriani restaurant.
Meanwhile the fifth edition of Art Monte-Carlo fair will take place in person from 15-17 July with 25 international galleries participating including White Cube, Esther Schipper and kamel mennour.
Although long considered the archetypal playground for Europe's super rich (around 30% of the city state's residents are millionaires), Monaco's reputation as a serious art hub is less established. But as the pandemic continues to limit international travel and mass events, dealers and auction houses are choosing to open up in seasonal resorts to bring art to wealthy buyers. But although Monaco is considered a tax haven, levying 0% capital gains tax on its residents, VAT and import taxes on works of art remain exactly the same as in neighbouring France.
Doubling down on private sales has also been a key strategy for auction houses in recent years as they look for new ways to expand their businesses. According to its year end sales report, Sotheby's made $1.6bn from private sales in 2020, an increase of 60% from 2019 and an industry record.
Last week, Sotheby's also announced that from September it will begin staging auctions in Germany from a villa in Cologne. However, currently, the sales will be online only, though Sotheby's Europe, Middle East and Africa director Sebastian Fahey says in-person sales are a possibility in the future.