On Tuesday, Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart noted in a memo the company has commenced plans to reopen select offices in Europe and Asia, with preparations being made to reopen the New York and London headquarters pending the lift of government restrictions. Sotheby’s Hong Kong spring sales will still be held as previously announced between July 5 to 11 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
“The term ‘re-opening’ is somewhat misleading,” Stewart said in an email, “because in fact we are still actively making markets during this time. Since March, we have held 37 online auctions that totaled nearly $70 million.”
In register with the sentiment of uncertainty expressed in the firm’s recently released financial statement. Stewart mused on the pandemic’s long-term impact noting some changes are “likely more permanent.” To clients, he said, “we have significantly adapted and evolved the ways in which we connect with and serve you over the last several weeks.”
Following a wave of restructuring in the beginning of the pandemic in early April, Sotheby’s most dramatic adaptation has been in the expansion of its online platform. The digital segment has made way for the growth of the private sale platform as well as high-value luxury offerings, including the recent sale of a record $1.3M Cartier bracelet. The online segment has also introduced an unprecedented partnership with the new Sotheby’s Gallery Network, hosting primary market dealers to bring a new buy-now format to the auction platform.
What the growing online format also provides for the firm is a more flexible marketplace to sell works across varied channels—something Sotheby’s has been testing in sales like the pop-up format ‘Contemporary Showcase’ series, the first edition of which featured only six contemporary works with edgy names like Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst. And in the new Contemporary Online Day sale, which opened bidding today and will run until May 14th Yoshitomo Nara’s Witching from 1990 is now being offered at an estimate of $600-900,000 – it moved from Sotheby’s private sale platform where is was offered previously.