In a live-streamed press conference this morning, Sotheby’s executives announced key changes to its upcoming auctions in New York and London. The house confirmed plans to offer a selection of high-value works from across the Old Masters, Impressionist and modern, and modern British and contemporary art categories, to be auctioned together in a live evening sale on July 28. The move marks another adjustment to the traditional formatting of the major sales.
The novel cross-categorical London initiative follows recent news of a major classical African art sculpture from the collection of Bernice and Sidney Clyman to highlight the New York contemporary evening sale. And a robust selection of 35 Latin American masterpieces, including works by Wifredo Lam, Fernando Botero, and Frida Kahlo valued at $22 million will be auctioned across its 20th-century evening and day sales the week of June 29. As the art market continues to adapt to the changing landscape of collecting through virtual means, Sotheby’s, along with its auction house competitors, has embraced the blurring of lines between fine art categories.
In the teleconference by Sotheby’s executives—which included elusive owner Patrick Drahi, whose address in the press conference was his first in five years—Helena Newman, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and head of Impressionist and modern art in London, noted that the evening sale merger addresses new client needs. “This is something I think will really resonate with today’s global collectors, who do not see things in typical traditional art market categories,” said Newman. “We anticipate that it will speak to the rapidly accelerating number of people transacting with Sotheby’s who actually come with no preconceptions about the sale formats.”
Along with the news of the reformatted London evening sale offering works spanning several centuries, Sotheby’s announced plans to stage a completely remote setup for its marquee modern and contemporary day and evening sales in New York. With restrictions in New York regarding coronavirus still in place, no clients will be present in the room. Instead, head auctioneer Oliver Barker will lead the June 29 auctions remotely from the London salesroom, along with a live stream of his global colleagues as they telephone bid with collectors. In Asia, where the majority of local restrictions have been lifted, Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale will take place as a live event. Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, said the regional office was not concerned about the potential impact of the rising political unrest amid Hong Kong’s protest movement on collecting behavior.