Christie’s Auctions Big Names But Fails Expectations

Christie's 20th/21st Century London Auction Gathered $81 Million, but Big Names Did Not Manage to Fulfil Set Expectations.

Jun 30, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Christie’s American branch at Rockefeller Center in New York. Via Wikipedia


Christie’s held its night London auction, two days ago. Overall, the auction house collected $81 million, which was a fine result. However, there is one problem. The auction did not meet all expectations: everything sold, but many works of art went for less than the estimated price. The auction’s “big names” also failed to correct the situation.


Christie’s Successes and Failures

20th/21st Century London Evening Sale at Christies, London, June 28, 2023. The auction house’s courtesy.


When comparing the two biggest auction houses, Christie’s and Sotheby’sSotheby’s managed to set a few records. The main focus was on Klimt’s painting, which set the highest art record in Europe. Christie’s strategy was If “everything must go”. This means the result of pieces selling for the lowest prices was satisfactory, since the final goal was to sell everything.


The auction house had 66 lots, and managed to sell 61 or 92%. But, the auction house did not have the “main lot”. A little over one-fourth of the pieces sold for less than the minimum projection. Some of them are Alberto Burri, Cy Twombly, and Louise Bourgeois.  Also, Gerhard Richter’s rare landscape work Grünes Feld did not find a buyer. Its projected value was $5 million to $7.4 million.


Christie’s in King Street, St James’s, via Wikimedia Commons


However, pieces by Edgar Degas, Damien Hirst, and David Hockney sold beyond its highest projection value. The auction houses’ London representative Keith Gill projected the institution’s plan of “presenting the right works at the right estimates and trying to present works that our clients had not seen at auction before”. The sales event placed a strong emphasis on portraits.

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An Intense Bidding for Basquiat’s Untitled (Pablo Picasso)

The French Auction Market
Christie’s Paris sale room of the Hubert de Givenchy collection. Photo: © Nina Slavcheva. Courtesy of Christie’s.


Although the focus was on portraits, they were not the best sellers. The top figure of the bidding came in from Signac‘s oil on canvas, Calanque-des-Canoubiers-Pointe-de-Bamer-Saint-Tropez (1896). The estimate was $7 million–$10.1 million. One of the 13 pieces with external assurances, the pointillist scenery sold for an ultimate closing cost of ($8.5 million, or $10.1 million with fees).


There was also Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1984 Untitled (Pablo Picasso). A protracted bidding conflict between two within the room participants ultimately emerged. First was New York collector Alex Acquavella, who ultimately lost the item to a front-row buyer for $6.8 million ($5.35 million) at the hammer price. The auction house highlighted as a component of the portrait-themed sale.


black artist basquiat egypt painting
Kings of Egypt II by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1988, via Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam


Wednesday’s auction followed the pre-pandemic pattern; in contrast, the June selling of the previous two years merged with the Paris sales and were referred to as the “London to Paris” auction. “Market correction—what we are witnessing now—is not a bad thing, after all. Certainly it will do good to the careers of younger artists, who will be able to develop in a calmer environment, and it will clear the field for more serious collectors and not just speculators”, the auction house stated.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.