Georgina Adam reporting for BBC News reminds us of the mismatch in goals between public, stand-alone Sotheby’s and privately-held luxury-goods-conglomerate-component Christie’s when it comes to China strategies. For Sotheby’s, China is a growth market, to be sure. But for Christie’s its mainland sales become part and parcel of a broader play. Here’s her report on the first-ever Mainland China sale held by Christie’s in Shanghai:
“China in the 21st Century will be what the US was in the 20th and Europe in the 19th,” Christie’s owner François Pinault told me just before the auction: “It’s terribly important for our future to be here.”
Pinault, along with an impressive line-up of Christie’s staff and top clients, had jetted in for a three-day round of cultural visits, forums and parties in advance of the auction – and hosted a sumptuous dinner catered by the renowned French chef Pierre Gagnaire, featuring a Chinese opera performance. For the preview and auction, the firm had constructed a series of rooms within the immense ballroom of the Shangri-la. As well as showing off the jewellery, art, wine and watches due to be sold, it boasted a ‘salon privé’ where works for private sale were displayed, along with tasters from its online and upcoming New York sales. “The point is to show the range of what we do,” said Murphy. […]
The market for luxury goods in China is enormous, with consumers eagerly snapping up brand names like Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen – all part of Pinault’s sprawling Kering group. Christie’s orchestrated the auction as a major branding exercise, with scarlet banners in the streets and its name splashed across a huge building overlooking the river. Mindful of the Chinese respect for longevity, on every occasion they hammered home the age of the company, which was founded in 1766.
Auction Houses Vie for Foothold in China (BBC News)