Christie’s has announced the launch of two online themed Post-War and Contemporary Art sales as part of a new series dubbed VICE and VIRTUE. Noted as a response to a “collective reality during these disrupted times” the first online auction VICE will be held from May 12-27 following by VIRTUE open from May 29-June 12.
Amid the shift to online auction platforms, the contemporary art sector has seen a spike in curated sales with an edgy take that has an appeal to a younger and tech savvy base of clients, who are growing acclimated to collecting across digital platforms. In a statement announcing the two-part sale, Christie’s characterized the concept behind the first auction revolves around “hedonistic escapism.” The themed online format of mix-category offerings is a new experiment for the old school auction house. Responding to the disruptions across the industry and in daily life amid the coronavirus pandemic, Christie’s adds Vice is meant to be the “reprieve from our new reality” featuring works by Pictures Generation artists Barbara Kruger and Richard Prince, urban art fixtures such as KAWS, and market newcomers, such as Awol Erizku.
Isabella Lauria, Post-War and Contemporary Art Specialist and Head of Vice noted the drive behind the sale was to respond to the rapid changes across the market. “The aim was to craft two themes that worked in concert to speak to our collective experience, while also meeting market demands for fresh and strategically priced objects” says Lauria, adding “from there, we’ve built thoughtful, elevated and thematic sales that share a certain Yin & Yang, so to speak. Vice is about the very human, hedonistic escapism we are all grasping for, and Virtue channels our imaginations, dreams and what we miss the most.”
As the flexible and fast-paced format of digital sales permeates the secondary market, the caliber of works coming up for sale is also scaling up. Among the 70 lots included in VICE which opened for bidding on Tuesday is Barbara Kruger’s monumental 1995 Untitled (Your taste is in your mouth) featuring the artist’s signature graphic juxtaposition and indictment of American consumer culture. The work carries an estimate of $250,000-350,000 consigned from the private holdings of a West Coast collector. The sale ranges in offerings from established contemporary artists to popular primary market names. Renowned Colombian postwar painter, Fernando Botero’s Standing Woman is on offer at an estimate of $300,000-400,000, alongside pioneering conceptual artist Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Untitled 2013 (Fear Eats the Soul) slated with a price of $20,000-30,000, and at the lowest end of the price spectrum is a photography by fashion photography heavyweight Helmut Newton offered at $5,000-7,000. Throughout the roster of lots, the curatorial thread serves as a promotional tool for provocative works by artists who typically get drowned out by the usual auction cycle of Warhol silkscreens and KAWs editions.
The organizers of the sale each echoed the pivotal moment to reach clients on a global sale with the new initiative. Lauria characterized the dual themed auction as a “powerful sales platform with global reach.” It’s counterpart, VIRTUE, lead by Christie’s Associate Vice President and Post-War and Contemporary Art Specialist, Paola Saracino Fendi, is also slated around the idea of escape, hosting a selection of works which play on the scheme around the seven virtues, the opposition to the seven deadly sins. The online sales serve as a new format for engagement with clients during the unprecedented moment. “More than ever, collectors are looking to us for innovation and new concepts” Fendi says. “The thematic sale gives us the opportunity to utilize creative branding and marketing to present works of art in a new and exciting context.”
The news comes with Christie’s confirmation of plans to gradually expand its calendar of online sales each week ranging from 14 to 21 days in length across every collecting category in the fine art and luxury sectors. The auction house also confirmed the volume of sales planned upcoming in the second quarter will increase, with the expansion of remote sale capacity throughout Christie’s global headquarters in the U.S., U.K. and Asia.