Christie's: Wikis


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Christie's American branch in Rockefeller Center, New York

Christie's is an art business and a fine arts auction house.



In A Peep at Christies' (1796), James Gillray caricatured actress Elizabeth Farren and huntsman Lord Derby examining paintings appropriate to their tastes and heights.

The official company literature states that founder James Christie conducted the first sale in London, England on 5 December 1766, [1] and the earliest auction catalogue the company retains is from December 1766. However, other sources note that James Christie rented auction rooms from 1762, and newspaper advertisements of Christie's sales dating from 1759 have also been traced. [2]

Christie's soon established a reputation as a leading auction house, and took advantage of London's new found status as the major centre of the international art trade after the French Revolution.

Christie's was a public company, listed on the London Stock Exchange from 1973 to 1999, after which it was taken into private ownership by Frenchman François Pinault.

On 28 December 2008, the Sunday Times reported that Pinault's debts left him "considering" the sale of Christie's and that a number of "private equity groups" were thought to be interested in its acquisition.[3] In January 2009, Christie's was reported to employ 2,100 people worldwide, though an unspecified number of staff and consultants were soon to be cut due to a worldwide downturn in the art market;[4] later news reports said that 300 jobs would be cut.[5] With sales for premier Impressionist, Modern, and contemporary artworks tallying only $US248.8 million in comparison to $US739 million just a year before, a second round of job cuts began after May 2009 when the auction house was still reported to employ 1,900 people worldwide.[6] One of the auction house's "rainmakers" in the sale of Impressionist and Modern art, Guy Bennett, resigned from the auction house just prior to the beginning of the summer 2009 sales season.[7] Although the economic downturn has encouraged some collectors to sell art, others are unwilling to sell in a market which may yield only bargain prices.[5]

The Christie's New York sign was created by Nancy Meyers during the production of Something's Gotta Give for an exterior shot. The auction house liked the sign so much that they requested the production leave it after shooting finished.


The Christie's secondary London salesroom in South Kensington.

Christie's main London salesroom is on King Street in St. James's, where it has been based since 1823. It has a second London salesroom in South Kensington which opened in 1975 and primarily handles the middle market. Christie's South Kensington is one of the world's busiest auction rooms.

As of January 2009,[4] Christie's had 85 offices (not all are salesrooms) in 43 countries, including New York City, Los Angeles, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam, Moscow, Vienna, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Rome, South Korea, Milan, Spain, Japan, China, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Tel Aviv, Dubai, and Mexico City. In 1995, Christie's became the first international auction house to exhibit works of art in Beijing, China.

Price-fixing scandal

In 2000, allegations surfaced of a price-fixing arrangement between Christie's and Sotheby's, another major auction house. Executives from Christie's subsequently alerted the Department of Justice of their suspicions of commission-fixing collusion.

Christie's gained immunity from prosecution in the United States after a longtime employee of Christie's confessed and cooperated with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Numerous members of Sotheby's senior management were fired soon thereafter, and A. Alfred Taubman, the largest shareholder of Sotheby's at the time, took most of the blame; he and Dede Brooks (the COO) were given jail sentences.[8][9][10]

Notable auctions

Pontormo, Portrait of a Halberdier, 1528-1530. Sold by Christie's for US $35. 2 million in 1989. (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles)
  • In 1987, during the Royal Albert Hall auction, Christie's famously auctioned off a Bugatti Royale automobile for a world record price of £5.5 million.
  • In May 1989, Pontormo's Portrait of a Halberdier was sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum for $35.2 million, more than tripling the previous auction record for an Old Master painting. [11]
  • In 1998, Christie's in New York sold the famous Archimedes Palimpsest after the conclusion of a lawsuit in which its ownership was disputed.
  • In November 1999, a single strand necklace of 41 natural and graduated pearls, which belonged to Barbara Hutton, was auctioned by Christie's Geneva for $1,476,000.
  • In 2006, a single Imperial Qing Dynasty porcelain bowl, another item which belonged to Barbara Hutton, was auctioned by Christie's Hong Kong for a record-breaking price of $22,240,000.
  • 16 May 2006, Christie's auctioned a Stradivarius called The Hammer for a record US$3,544,000. It was, at that time, the most paid at public auction for any musical instrument. [12]
  • October 2006, Christie's auctioned 1,000 lots of official Star Trek contents from the CBS Paramount Television studios. A model of the starship Enterprise-D, used in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek Generations sold for $576,000.
  • November 2006, 4 celebrated paintings by Gustav Klimt were sold for a total of $192 million, after being restituted by Austria to Jewish heirs after a lengthy legal battle. [13]
  • December 2006, The black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's was sold for £467, 200 at Christie's South Kensington.
  • Continuing to dominate the global market for fine arts, Christie's staged the five largest auctions of all time in November 2006, [13] and May and June 2007.[citation needed]
  • November 2007, an album of eight leaves, ink on paper, by China's Ming Dynasty court painter Dong Qichang was sold at the Christie's Hong Kong Chinese Paintings Auction for US$6,235,500, a world auction record for the artist. [14]
  • In 2008, the Ink and wash painting of Gundam drawn by Hisashi in 2005 was sold in the Christie's auction held in Hong Kong with a price of US$600,000.[15][16][17][18][19]
  • 24 May 2008, Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas by Claude Monet was sold for a price of $80.4 million, the highest price ever for a Monet.
  • Over a three-day sale in Paris in February 2009, Christie's auctioned the monumental private collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé for a record-breaking 370 million euros (US$490 million). [20] It was the most expensive private collection ever sold at auction, [21] breaking auction records for Brancusi, Matisse, and Mondrian. [20] A "Dragons'" armchair by Irish furniture designer Eileen Gray sold for 21. 9 million euros (US$28 million), setting an auction record for a piece of 20th century decorative art. [20][22][23]
  • The 2009 auction (for US$ 36 million) of two imperial bronze zodiac sculptures, looted in 1860 from the Old Summer Palace of Beijing by French and British forces at the close of the Second Opium War caused controversy.[24][25][26]
  • Christie's has auctioned off artwork and personal possessions linked to historical figures such as Pablo Picasso; Rembrandt; Diana, Princess of Wales; Leonardo da Vinci; Vincent van Gogh; Napoleon Bonaparte; Marilyn Monroe; and others.
  • Christie's Hong Kong, November 2009 sale of Fine Modern Chinese Paintings, sold a work by Fu Baoshi titled "Landscape inspired by Dufu's Poetic Sentiments", for HK$60,020,000 (US$7,780,105) -- a world record for the artist.

Christie's Great Estates

Christie’s clients who buy and sell works of art often request real estate services. To satisfy this demand, Great Estates, founded by Kay Coughlin in 1987, was acquired by the auction house in 1995. Christie's Great Estates is a wholly owned subsidiary of Christie's, and is the leading international network of real estate brokers dedicated to the marketing and sale of luxury properties. The network spans more than 40 countries worldwide, with 1,000 offices and approximately 34,000 sales associates. [27]

Christie's Education Graduate Programmes

The educational arm of Christie's auction house is called Christie's Education. It has colleges in London and New York accredited by the University of Glasgow in the UK and the New York State Board of Regents in the USA. It offers Master's Degrees, Graduate Diplomas, Art Business Certificates and an Undergraduate Degree. Courses include: Arts of China; Early European Art (Antiquity, Middle Ages and Renaissance); Art, Style and Design (Renaissance to Modernism); Modern and Contemporary Art (all in London) and Modern Art, Connoisseurship and the History of the Art Market (in New York). Part-time, certificate and continuing education programmes are also offered in London and New York.


Christie's Images is the picture library for the auction house and has an archive of several million fine and decorative art images representing items sold in its sale rooms around the world. With offices in New York and London, images are available for reproduction.

With Bonhams, Christie's is a shareholder in the London-based Art Loss Register, a privately-owned database used by law enforcement services worldwide to trace and recover stolen art. [28]


  1. ^ com/features/welcome/ "Christies. com - About Us". http://www.christies. com/features/welcome/. Retrieved 2008-12-03. ""James Christie conducted the first sale in London on 5 December 1766. "" 
  2. ^ {Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser (London, England), Saturday, 25 September 1762; Issue 10460}
  3. ^ Walsh, Kate (2008-12-28). timesonline. co. uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/consumer_goods/article5404112. ece "Pinault woes may force Château Latour sell-off". (London) Sunday Times. http://business. timesonline. co. uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/consumer_goods/article5404112. ece. Retrieved 2009-01-14. 
  4. ^ a b Werdigier, Julia (2009-01-12). com/2009/01/13/business/worldbusiness/13auction. html "Christie’s Plans Cuts as Auctions Slow". New York Times. http://www.nytimes. com/2009/01/13/business/worldbusiness/13auction. html. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  5. ^ a b Holson, Laura M. (2009-02-08). com/2009/02/08/nyregion/08auction. html "In World of High-Glamour, Low-Pay Jobs, the Recession Has Its Bright Spots". New York Times. http://www.nytimes. com/2009/02/08/nyregion/08auction. html. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  6. ^ "Christie’s Resumes Cutting Jobs After May N.Y. Auctions Decline". Bloomberg News. 2009-06-18. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  7. ^ Vogel, Carol (2009-06-18). "Christie’s Executive Leaves a Top Post". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  8. ^ Rohleder, Anna (2001). "Who's Who In The Sotheby's Price-Fixing Trial". New York: Forbes. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  9. ^ Mason, Christopher (2005-05-03). Art of the Steal: Inside the Sotheby's-Christie's Auction House Scandal. New York: Penguin Group. ISBN 978-1440604805. 
  10. ^ "Going Once, Going Twice… Glamour, Greed and Fraud at Sotheby's and Christie's". Knowledge@Wharton. University of Pennsylvania. 2004-09-08. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  11. ^ Kimmelman, Michael (1989-06-03). nytimes. com/gst/fullpage. html?res=950DE4DB123BF930A35755C0A96F948260& "The Getty Fills a Role, for Itself and the Public". http://query. nytimes. com/gst/fullpage. html?res=950DE4DB123BF930A35755C0A96F948260&. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  12. ^ bbc. co. uk/2/hi/entertainment/4988838. stm "Stradivarius tops auction record". BBC News. 2006-05-17. http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/entertainment/4988838. stm. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  13. ^ a b Vogel, Carol (2006-11-09). nytimes. com/gst/fullpage. html?res=9D06E5D71E3FF93AA35752C1A9609C8B63& "$491 Million Sale at Christie's Shatters Art Auction Record". New York Times. http://query. nytimes. com/gst/fullpage. html?res=9D06E5D71E3FF93AA35752C1A9609C8B63&. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ Most expensive Gundam picture sold in history
  16. ^ Ink painting of Gundam sold at historical price
  17. ^ Gun-Slinging Robot, Wooden Beams Mark Quiet Hong Kong Art Sale
  18. ^ Gundam Fetches $600,000
  19. ^ Gundam Painting Auctioned for US$600,000+ in Hong Kong
  20. ^ a b c reuters. com/article/stageNews/idUKTRE51J5QU20090225 "Record-breaking YSL auction shrugs off crisis". Reuters. 2009-02-25. http://uk. reuters. com/article/stageNews/idUKTRE51J5QU20090225. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  21. ^ Erlanger, Steve (2009-02-23). com/2009/02/24/arts/design/24auction. html "Yves Saint Laurent Art Sale Brings In $264 Million". New York Times. http://www.nytimes. com/2009/02/24/arts/design/24auction. html. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  22. ^ com/unbeige/furniture/eileen_gray_dragons_chair_fetches_28_million_on_day_two_of_ysl_sale_109600. asp "Eileen Gray 'Dragons' Chair Fetches $28 Million on Day Two of YSL Sale". mediabistro. 2009-02-25. http://www.mediabistro. com/unbeige/furniture/eileen_gray_dragons_chair_fetches_28_million_on_day_two_of_ysl_sale_109600. asp. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  23. ^ co. uk/news/article. html?YSLs_seat_sell_for_%A319million&in_article_id=557756 "YSL's seat sells for £19million". Metro. co. uk. 2009-02-25. http://www.metro. co. uk/news/article. html?YSLs_seat_sell_for_%A319million&in_article_id=557756. 
  24. ^ Wong, Gillian (2009-02-26). com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hOya4jms7uNhLzz1-R-ff_w-FFNAD96J5O3G0 "China slams Christie's auction of looted relics". Associated Press. com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hOya4jms7uNhLzz1-R-ff_w-FFNAD96J5O3G0. Retrieved 2009-02-26. 
  25. ^ com/lotfinder/lot_details. aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5157531 TRES RARE ET IMPORTANTE TETE DE LAPIN, Yves Saint Laurent sale catalog, Christie's (Paris), 24 February 2009.
  26. ^ com/lotfinder/lot_details. aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5157530 TRES RARE ET IMPORTANTE TETE DE RAT, Yves Saint Laurent sale catalog, Christie's (Paris), 24 February 2009.
  27. ^ http://www.christiesgreatestates. com/welcome/about_cge. htm
  28. ^ com/directory/ad157. htm The Art Loss Register, Ltd. : "The Art Loss Register is the world's largest database of stolen art and antiques dedicated to their recovery. Its shareholders include Christie's, Bonhams, members of the insurance industry and art trade associations. " Retrieved on 27 September 2008.


  • J. Herbert, Inside Christie’s, London, 1990
  • P. A. Colson, The Story of Christie's, London, 1950
  • H. C. Marillier, Christie's, 1766-1925, London, 1926
  • M. A. Michael, A Brief History of Christie's Education... , London, 2008
  • W. Roberts, Memorials of Christie's, 2 vols, London, 1897

External links

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