Amid the coronavirus closures across the art industry, Christie’s has now made updates to their digital platform. In an attempt to draw attention to an array of private sale offering across collecting categories including modern and contemporary art, American art, Old Masters, and luxury — the move comes with an emphasis on collector engagement.
The house reported that its total figures achieved through all online transactions, which includes online purchases, absentee bidding and the firm’s LIVE platform — reached $270.4 up 8% from $250.4 million achieved in 2018. Although online bidding is not revenue, it indicates the transactional potential of the collecting base. The majority of Christie’s clients bought and bid online in 2019, at a total of 64%, and 41% of new buyers were brought in through the company’s online platforms in 2019.
As private sales continue to serve as an increasingly competitive sector within the auction market, Sotheby’s and Christie’s have each built strategies around online expansion to meet the needs of client groups at different spending segments. As seen in the data from 2019, in periods of economic uncertainty, collectors opt for the the control provided in private sales. And with public auction sales seeing a decrease of 17%, private sales have been the antidote to a more discerning class of collectors.
Prior to this renewed digital focus, the auction houses have had to be more creative in their marketing approach — producing cross-branded exhibitions in order to merge promotion of the fine art and luxury categories into a unified selling space. Curating the sales has been key. In a November 2019 private sale exhibition, Christie’s used Dolce&Gabbana and Alta Moda couture to plug Old Master paintings and decorative arts.
Some of the art currently on offer at Christie’s include works by leading market names like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Fernand Leger, Emile Nolde and Max Erst among others.
Christie’s Deputy Chief Marketing Officer, Matthew Rubinger, emphasized that time spent in the past weeks updating these digital forums has been “to ensure our doors remain open from a digital standpoint, so that our audiences across the world can continue to engage with us.” For Christie’s it appears that continuing to woo new buyers is a key focus. Noting the wide use of online platforms just to get people in the door, Rubinger assured engagement in the priority — “whether that means learning more about their favorite collecting category, seeing a work of art in a virtual viewing room, or bidding on an item through our trusted online sale platform.”