Auction calendars are continuing to shift because of the coronavirus pandemic, with Christie’s moving its marquee Hong Kong sales yet again. Having historically been planned for March, the sales were this year scheduled for the end of May still to be held at the company’s Hong Kong headquarters despite the coronavirus shuttering many Hong Kong businesses. Now, the house has shuffled the schedule one more time, re-dating them for July 5 in New York.
The Hong Kong sales will now be held during the same week as Sotheby’s and Phillips’s auctions, both of which had scheduled their auctions for the spring in the territory. Christie’s executives announced the shift in a conference call on Wednesday morning, and they also revealed a few other auctions set to occur in the upcoming months, among them an online Walker Evans sale to take place at the end of April, as well as a sale of works from the Saatchi Gallery collection and a Warhol charity auction, which are set to occur in person and online.
A Christie’s representative said that the house in the process of securing a site to exhibit works from the sale with the understanding that traffic flow will have to be limited to comply with coronavirus-related guidelines. No tentative date was immediately provided for the showing of works hitting the block.
Marc Porter, Christie’s chairman of Americas, confirmed that, even in spite of the art market’s uncertainty, top clients are viewing the current situation as an opportunity to acquire objects for their collections that previously have not been available. As public auctions remain the industry standard for calibrating the health of individual artists markets, Porter said, “the real driver of the return to normal volume in the market is when the estates start to appear. The estates will be poised to sell in the fall, and that is when we will see the price points.” Porter added that clients are now seeking market stability—something proven, he claimed, by an increased interest in offerings in private sales.
Guillaume Cerutti, Christie’s CEO, said the house was growing online and witnessing a rising demand for works offered via private sale. The house reported that funds brought in from private sales were up 28 percent over last year. The price points in those sales are reportedly also remaining stable.
As the house continues to evaluate the coronavirus’s economic impact on the U.S., Christie’s officials are still reviewing whether to apply for funding that’s part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Christie’s asked the 500 most highly paid employees if they would take a temporary pay cut of between 10 and 20 percent; 95 percent of those asked agreed. Meanwhile, roughly 40 percent of its workforce based in the U.K. and Europe has been furloughed. The firm has committed to paying back the lost salaries once business returns to normal.