After announcing plans to open new sale headquarters in Cologne, Sotheby’s is making another move to reach clients in Europe. On Thursday, the auction house announced that it will inaugurate a seasonal private sales gallery in Monaco next month. The exhibition space on Avenue de la Costa is the house’s first pop-up space in Europe.
As the pandemic continues to restrict international travel and large-scale events, mega-galleries and major auction houses are bringing art to exclusive corners of the world frequented by serious buyers. Last year, Sotheby’s and its competitors, Christie’s and Phillips, pivoted attention to the seasonal enclaves of East Hampton, Palm Beach, and Aspen, where high net worth U.S. art collectors flocked during the crisis.
Now, Sotheby’s is deploying the same strategy in Monaco, where the auction house has held an office for the last five decades. Among the events set to take place there is a blockbuster sale of Karl Lagerfeld’s estate in the fall.
Sotheby’s new space is set to open on July 3, the same day that an Alberto Giacometti show opens at the Grimaldi Forum. The week after, major players of the international art world are likely to be in town for the Art Monte-Carlo fair.
The gallery will exhibit modern and contemporary art available for private sale during the summer months. Its first exhibition will showcase works by Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, George Condo, and Lucio Fontana, among other blue-chip artists, alongside jewelry and other luxury goods.
“The launch of our Monaco space marks the next evolution in our strategy to meet collectors wherever they are,” Martin Klosterfelde, Sotheby’s senior director of international private sales, said in a statement.
Nearly a third of Monaco’s residents are millionaires. The Mediterranean principality is known for its status as a luxury attraction for the ultra-wealthy. It has also gained a reputation primarily as a tax haven, rather than as a serious cultural hub.
Sotheby’s is following in the path of Hauser & Wirth, which revealed plans to open a permanent space in Monaco in April. Last week, Christie’s announced plans to mount a contemporary art and jewelry private sale exhibition at a restaurant in Monte Carlo next month.
Over the past year, with traditional sales rendered more difficult to stage by the pandemic, auction houses have placed a new emphasis on private transactions. According to its 2021 annual sales report, Sotheby’s said it generated $1.6 billion from private sales in 2020, marking a 50 percent increase over its 2019 figure. Likewise, Christie’s reported a total of £987 million ($1.2 billion) in private sales for the year of 2020, a 56 percent increase over 2019.