‘If people can’t come to us, we’ll create an exciting product and take it into their homes’
Our sales of 20th- and 21st-century art are changing. The team behind the stellar works of art being offered in the New York Evening sale on 6 October explain why it will be an auction like nothing that has gone before
Ana Maria Celis, Senior Specialist and Co-Head of the Evening Sale, Post-War and Contemporary Art
‘We have spent months thinking about how this sale is going to look — about how the auction is going to feel, and how it’s going to remain exciting.
‘We’ve now proved to ourselves and to the market that we can disrupt. We can change and do it successfully, and I think that's one of the things that keeps us as market leaders — we are constantly pushing the boundaries of what we can do, how we can do it better, and how we can get the greatest results.
‘The critical question is: do you feel the excitement if you’re not in the sale room? What we’re trying to prove is that you can, the excitement is there — just wait and watch.
‘You’re going to see everything from Johns and Klee to Ruscha, Pollock, de Kooning and Rothko. I mean, I could keep going: Picasso, Cézanne, Ellsworth Kelly, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince… and of course, a T. rex.
‘The thread that connects the works in this sale is greatness. There are some extraordinary objects here that haven’t been up at auction before, while others were last seen decades ago. It’s a truly unique opportunity to buy something that is probably not going to come up again.
‘Jackson Pollock’s Red Composition from 1946 is a good example — it’s art history in front of us. The painting represents a pretty epic moment, not just for Pollock, but for Abstract Expressionism. This is the beginning of Pollock’s drip paintings, as we know them, so to see a painting that embodies the genesis of such an important body of work is unique, rare and thrilling.’
Alex Rotter, Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art Departments
‘Times are changing in the auction world of today. We have had to adapt. We’re breaking the calendar. We’re breaking the rules. We’re breaking the concept of the auction because the world around us is no longer the same.
‘Is the T.rex technically a work of the 20th century? Absolutely not. In 2017 we included Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi in a 20th century sale. Now we are going a little farther back: to be exact, 67 million years, and putting STAN in the context of modern and contemporary art.
‘STAN is one of the biggest and most complete T. rexes ever found, and has been reproduced about 100 times in museums, in amusement parks, all over the world. But here we have the real skeleton — the real STAN is here with us, and now it is for sale.
‘This is what we do: we sell paintings, we create auctions, we create spectacles. Right now we can’t have people in the auction room. So if people can't come to us, we'll create an exciting product and take it into the home.’
Sara Friedlander, Deputy Chairman, Post-War & Contemporary Art
‘For this 20th century sale, there is a tremendous amount of gossip. Everyone likes to talk. What’s it going to make? Who’s going to bid in it? Some of it happens over the phone. Some of it happens in the Christie’s galleries. Some of it happens on Instagram. But the truth of the matter is, nobody knows what’s going to happen until that magical night.
‘What I love most is the lead up to the evening itself. All of the art is on the wall. Anyone can come in and see it, experience it, have a moment alone with it. It’s an opportunity to engage with the art before it all goes under the hammer.
‘What’s amazing about this sale is the very cool juxtaposition of Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary works. It’s quite thrilling to have a sale that has paintings by Monet and Van Gogh, and also Ellsworth Kelly — artists who were speaking to each other across more than 100 years of art history.
‘The idea that the entire world can be in one place to watch a sale, to bid in a sale, to buy in a sale, is quite thrilling. What we’ve been able to do with super-zoom photography and technology to bring art into people’s homes is outstanding.’
Adrien Meyer, Global Head of Private Sales
‘Every sale is different from the others, but this is going to be one-of-a-kind. It’s an honour for us to be handling such amazing works of art, and as the auctioneer for the 6 October sale, it’s very exciting to be preparing for such a group of works of art to be sold.
‘What I think is fascinating with the auction world is the unexpected — the unknown results that will be created by those collectors who fight against each other for works of art, which they may not see again in their own lifetimes.
‘These moments are very intense, very unpredictable, very emotionally charged. And it is one of the reasons why it’s so exciting to hold the gavel. You are very much at the juncture, in the middle of this battlefield. You don't know who the end winner will be, you don't know how they will win.
‘As an auctioneer, what has always been stimulating is the buzz generated in the room, and what is really exciting me now is to imagine how this show will be brought into clients’ homes.
Sign up today
Christie’s Online Magazine delivers our best features, videos, and auction news to your inbox every week
‘During the sale, there might be three locations relaying bids at the same time on the same lots. There will be more information than ever, with commentators — Bonnie Brennan and Richard Lloyd — explaining to the audience what’s going on.
‘There's going to be a pace that they will probably never have experienced before, a flow of information that they will receive in real time, and therefore a sense of being within the auction more than ever. The excitement that is usually experienced by bidders in the room is going to be made available to viewers around the world.’
Johanna Flaum, International Director, Head of Department, Post-War and Contemporary Art
‘One of the really positive things that has come out of this year is being able to take auctions farther into the future. We are working within a 250-year lineage, but for us to be able to share the auction experience online with a much wider public, accessing hundreds of thousands of people, is an extraordinary opportunity.
‘This is an incredible sale: it’s the best of Cy Twombly. It’s the best of Mark Rothko. It is the best of Willem de Kooning. What will a work make? Which lots will run the farthest? What will be the new record prices?
‘One of the things we’ve been so focused on at Christie’s is translating that energy through the screen and to the viewer at home. Being able to see the competition. Bidders bidding against each other, making those split-second decisions. Being able to see the action up close and personal — the competition — not knowing what’s going to happen and seeing it right before you.’
Max Carter, International Director, Head of Department, Impressionist and Modern Art
‘There’s nothing like the drama and emotional pitch of an auction. It's like going to a great play, but with a little bit of an element of uncertainty.
‘There’s an energy and a global momentum about this sale. It includes the greatest Emil Nolde seascape to come to auction, which is poised to set a new world record; and an extremely important and impressive portrait of Dora Maar, Picasso’s mistress from the 1940s.
‘The Cézanne from Ford House is the best work on paper by any artist in any sale in any category that I’ve come across in my time at Christie’s. I stand in front of it, and I’m in awe of the artist’s achievement. Watercolours were the pinnacle of his art and it’s the best of its kind to come to auction. I’m very confident it will set a new world record for a Cézanne work on paper.
‘The contents of the sale cut across various subjects, styles and media, but the common thread running through all of it is a sense of modernity. So there’s a nice parallel with what we are doing with this sale: reinventing the auction and presenting it in this new digital format.’
Before the auction you can tune into a conversation through Christies.com, commencing at 6.30pm EDT, between gallerist Jeffrey Deitch, Melanie Gerlis of the Financial Times and Marc Porter, Chairman, Christie’s Americas