Art market

Christie’s cancels June contemporary art auctions

Sotheby’s says it has no plans to reschedule, while Phillips has not yet reached a decision

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Christie’s is cancelling its June postwar and contemporary art auctions in London, the auction house confirmed on Friday. In a statement, it says this year is “particularly busy” for collectors, with Venice, later New York sales in May, Documenta 14 and Art Basel all putting a squeeze on the art world summer calendar–and consignments.

The move comes amid a string of belt-tightening measures announced under the leadership of Guillaume Cerutti, who was appointed chief executive in December. These include closing Christie’s South Kensington saleroom, which hosts around 60 sales annually, and slashing its Amsterdam auctions.

According to the statement, Christie’s now plans to focus on its contemporary sales in March, which were moved from February this year to avoid a clash with Chinese New Year, and during Frieze Week in October “when the energy of the contemporary art world in London is at its highest”. The next contemporary art evening auction will take place on 6 October. Christie’s Impressionist evening sale will go ahead as usual, taking place on 27 June.

Mirroring New York, which holds contemporary sales twice a year, Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie’s global president, says “the aim is to create two highly focused moments in the calendar that maximise London’s position at the crossroads of the world art market”.

In June 2016, Christie’s evening sale fetched £33.7m (£39.6m with fees), well within the £26.3m to £37.7m estimate, but its lowest-value June auction since 2009. The result was heavily marred by the last-minute withdrawal of a painting by Gerhard Richter that had been estimated to sell for £14m.

Sotheby’s says it has no plans to reschedule its June contemporary sales, while a spokeswoman for Phillips says the auction house has not yet made a decision.