With the coronavirus disrupting nearly all sectors of the international art world, auction houses have been hit hard. Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Phillips, and Bonhams have all closed many of their locations, and various sales have been moved around while houses work to meet the needs of clients and the safety of their workers. Now, it appears that the effects of the shutdowns could ripple out for months, with major sales that are typically expected to take place in May being postponed.
In a conference call today, Christie’s said it will consolidate its marquee Impressionist and modern and contemporary sales, and stage them over the course of one week in New York; all will take place between June 23 and 28. The house said it will proceed with its scheduled Hong Kong sales slated for the end of May, and its “Classic Week” sale, which includes an important Old Masters painting auction, will take place in London during the week of July 6.
Phillips made a similar adjustment to its calendar, revealing a plan to merge its New York and London 20th-century and contemporary art sales and hold them in New York during the week of June 22. The house’s Hong Kong sales will go on as planned at the end of May.
Sotheby’s plans going forward have not yet been revealed. “As previously announced, we plan to make final decisions about each auction event at least 30 days prior to the existing sale date, and will alert all relevant parties at that time,” a representative said. Its major Hong Kong Impressionist and contemporary sales were relocated to New York earlier this year, and are currently scheduled to take place in mid-April.
The overhaul of the global art market’s spring schedule could present a new wave of challenges. Auction houses often schedule their programming around when collectors are traveling—and such schedules may be severely impacted by the economic uncertainty facing the world now. And summer is also typically a quiet period for the art industry, though this may not be the case this year.
Meanwhile, the fate of at least one other highly anticipated auction, that of the $700 million Macklowe collection of major postwar holdings, remains in limbo. Following a court mandate established in the divorce proceedings of billionaire collectors Harry and Linda Macklowe, Michael Findlay—a prominent impressionist and modern art dealer, and director of New York’s Acquavella Galleries—was appointed the legal decision-maker for the collection. Findlay is believed to be taking the sale to an auction house, and in a statement obtained by Artnet News, a representative for the dealer said Findlay would “pause” such attempts while the coronavirus pandemic continues.