The West Galleries
Christie’s makes a compelling space—and case—for private sales. It was, in no uncertain terms, a landmark year for Christie’s. In June 2014, the world’s largest auction house declared that it had broken into uncharted territory, totaling roughly $4 billion in sales during the first half of the year. By November, the upward momentum showed no […]
Christie’s makes a compelling space—and case—for private sales.
It was, in no uncertain terms, a landmark year for Christie’s. In June 2014, the world’s largest auction house declared that it had broken into uncharted territory, totaling roughly $4 billion in sales during the first half of the year. By November, the upward momentum showed no signs of slackening, with a Post-War & Contemporary Art auction that brought in a record-shattering $852.9 million across
75 lots (including 11 all-time artist records). By year’s end, Christie’s reported $8.4 billion in sales, a 17 percent increase from 2013 and a figure far exceeding the sums of rival houses.
While Christie’s blockbuster auctions garnered most of the attention in 2014, the company’s private treaty sales also escalated to record-breaking proportions. Of the auction house’s sky-high totals, private transactions accounted for roughly $1.5 billion—a number that challenges, and likely surpasses, even the most lucrative galleries.
“Private sales now represent a very healthy 18 percent of our sales, and we are really envisioning a lot of growth,” says Vivian Pfeiffer, senior vice president and director of private sales at Christie’s Americas. “In the past, people would rendezvous two or three times a year for the seasonal auctions in London and New York. Now we are seeing activity 365 days a year.”
Serving this growing demand—and deepening its reach into dealer territory—Christie’s debuted in November the West Galleries, an 11,000-square-foot network of galleries and viewing rooms devoted primarily to private sales at its Rockefeller Center headquarters. Designed by the New York–based architect Annabelle Selldorf, the spaces allow clients a new level of flexibility and discretion when evaluating potential acquisitions. Each of the five viewing rooms approximates a real-world setting, from a living room with leather armchairs and terrazzo floors to a museum gallery with 16-foot-high ceilings. The spaces are designed to complement varying media and styles as well: Crown moldings and cream-colored walls provide an ideal environment for viewing Old Masters, while white cubes suit more contemporary works. Throughout, state-of-the-art lighting can be customized to simulate any number of settings.
According to Pfeiffer, the West Galleries are a natural extension of Christie’s private services, which for years have aided collectors in acquiring and selling pieces outside of the auction timeline. To be sure, the new private-sales spaces solidify Christie’s growing role as a secondary-market art dealer—and ensure that the house will be poised for yet another groundbreaking year in 2015.