The New York Times wanted a story on Christie’s “controversial” choice to consolidate all of its May sales into one week. Its reporter cast about looking for conflict:
Some experts wonder whether buyers will bother to show up for the first week, even though there will be a schedule of day sales, while others worry that collectors may not be in a buying mood by the end of the second.
But the sources just wouldn’t play along:
Achim Moeller, the New York dealer who advised Mr. Whitehead and his estate, said he was not concerned by the auction’s move to the second week.
“It was a good idea to do so, because you are going to have an entire week dedicated to evening sales, and that of course will draw a lot of attention from the international world onto Christie’s,” he said. “People who focus on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will also focus on Thursday.”
He added: “You can’t tell me that if Sotheby’s has a Monet the week before that the potential buyers of Monet will not also look at Monet on Thursday. Very often people are on the phone anyway.”
There actually is a story here. We’ve mentioned it before but the whole thing bears repetition. Concerns about Venice and the overlap of collectors in Contemporary and Modern art surely played an important part in Christie’s cramming all seven of its May sales into one week. But the schedule change is about much more than whether a Joan Mitchell collector might also be interested in a Berthe Morisot. Christie’s is stealing a march on the competition.
Sotheby’s and Phillips are both still adjusting to new leadership. Christie’s is taking advantage of this, and its strength in Contemporary, to seize the spotlight and make its sales the dominant events of May. No matter how well the other two houses perform, the seven sales will make the most noise.