With the coronavirus pandemic having forced closure of most major auction houses worldwide, Sotheby’s has announced staff furloughs, pay cuts, and layoffs across its global offices. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sotheby’s, which employs around 1,700 people across all of its locations, will furlough 12 percent of its staff members, or around 200 employees. (Sotheby’s representatives have yet to confirm an exact number.) On Wednesday, Sotheby’s CEO Charles F. Stewart revealed the company’s furlough and pay cut plans in a remote town hall meeting.
After the article was published, Christie’s also announced it would start furloughing staff based in Europe. As part of the plan, the house will lay off some temporary outside contractors and enact a voluntary salary sacrifice for a segment of the company’s highest-earning employees.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Sotheby’s will be carrying out a 20 percent pay cut for its remaining employees in the U.S. and the U.K. whose jobs will be retained, as well as an additional 10 percent pay cut for executives, according to a staff-wide internal message. The report also said that overtime pay and performance-based incentive compensation will be temporarily suspended.
In the past several weeks, the house has majorly restructured its sales schedule. With the majority of its live auctions canceled, the house has shifted to private sales and has been rapidly expanding its online offerings in various fine art and luxury categories. Yesterday, Sotheby’s announced a set of new online 20th century day sales that will replace its live auctions, underlining the house’s commitment to going digital during the pandemic. So far, the house has been forced to close 10 of its salesrooms and around 80 of its global offices following the CDC’s policy guidelines issued in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement provided by a Sotheby’s representative, the house said its leadership remains focused on its client engagement and in maintaining the company’s various services during this period. A representative from Christie’s headquarters in the U.K. echoed the same priority oriented towards the company’s auxiliary platforms, noting “our core teams remain in place to support our clients through Private sales, Online sales and to collate sales to be ready to service when live auctions recommence.”