There’s been a lot of talk about Christie’s closing of its South Kensington sale room. One theme, promoted by Christie’s, is that the market for the kinds of objects sold at South Kensington has moved online.
That’s not really true. As usual, Colin Gleadell has some important clues about what’s really going on here. First, it pays to know what South Kensington sold, the kind of furniture, pottery and other works of art that once filled “antiques” stores. Indeed, the Antiques Roadshow grew out of Christie’s South Kensington, as Gleadell explains:
It was CSK’s roving valuation events that inspired the creation of the ever popular Antiques Roadshow.[…] CSK set the pace in many of these categories – film or ski posters for instance. The very wealthy, real collectors – Sheikh Saud Al Thani, Paul Getty or Lord Thomson for instance – would buy there, as well as all the dealers. […] Dealer Julian Hartnoll thinks CSK had become an anachronism because it couldn’t make the step from wholesaler, selling to the trade, to retailer. “Its death was inevitable,” he says.
One reason it couldn’t become a retailer is the falling demand for brown furniture and crockery. Demand has dried up for the wares CSK sold.
For the movie posters and other memorabilia, there is an online market but it is eBay or Heritage Auctions. Neither Christie’s nor Sotheby’s plays a real role in that sort of business (which has been a shame for both.)
As Gleadell points out, the real reason to close CSK was to eliminate headcount. Even once those jobs are gone, Sotheby’s will still have three-quarters the employees Christie’s does.
Christie’s to close South Kensington branch (Telegraph)