Exhibitions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s



In September, Christie’s and Sotheby’s will once again act in unison – this time in London – by taking turns to organise exhibitions of 1960s of English artists, each in collaboration with a gallery owner. Private sales – an activity that the two auction houses are developing – represent an opportunity to put on increasingly “curated” exhibitions involving not only a strong curator presence but also a catalogue.

Sotheby’s will go first, for a couple of days only, in September with The New Situation – Art in London in the Sixties, a private exhibition/sale with works by 40 artists (including Hockney and Riley) who revolutionized the London art scene in the 1960s before revolutionising the rest of the world.
For its part, Christie’s has linked up with Waddington Custot Galleries for the exhibition When Britain Went Pop! to be held in London from 9 October to 24 November 2013. The event will allow Christie’s to inaugurate its new exhibition space in the heart of Mayfair with an overview of the early days of British Pop Art. The artists are leading names like Richard HAMILTON, Peter BLAKE, Allen JONES, Patrick CAULFIELD and David HOCKNEY.
One major attraction: the works are on loan from major private collectors and some are for private sales.

The choice of the artists exhibited is also strategic for the two firms and we note that the artists selected are increasingly sought after on the secondary market: the price index of Peter Blake, for example, has risen 569% over the past decade, with Allen Jones, Bridget Riley, Caulfield and Hamilton gaining 211%, 183%, 160% and 124% respectively. Moreover, recent auction results all point to good results at these private sales. Recall that on 13 February 2013, Christie’s generated a new record for Allen Johns (with a set of three pieces of anthropomorphic-sculptures-furniture Hatstand/Hatstand /Table / Chair) at the equivalent of $3.392 million (£1.9million) and sold a painting by David Hockney for the equivalent of $5.474 m (Great Pyramid at Giza with Broken Head from Thebes, £ 3.1million).

Before discovering the star lots proposed by the two giants of the market, the gallery Sotheby’s of New Bond Street is presenting the exhibition Three generations (23 July to 9 August, 2013) curated by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) . The auction house is thus at the origin of the first London exhibition focused on established and emerging artists from the United Arab Emirates, with 12 works by 12 artists, most of whom have no auction exposure. Sotheby’s is therefore playing a pioneer role, as would a Contemporary art gallery, with a view perhaps to including these artists in a forthcoming sales catalogue in London or Doha. This type of exhibition should be closely monitored, especially with respect to still unknown and affordable young talents on the auction market. In 2012, the large photo Eternal Love by Sumayyah AL-SUWAIDI (born in 1980) was affordable for $2,500 (Christie’s Dubai, 18 April 2012).

Other more confirmed signatures on the Emirates scene are rebuilding their pricing power following the meltdown after the rampant speculation that over-inflated prices in 2007-2008. The painter Najat MAKKI (1953) perfectly illustrated the excesses of the Dubai market in 2007 when his What happens behind closed Doors fetched five times its estimate at $52,000 at Christie’s. In April 2012, the same work did not reach $20,000 (it sold for $19,000 at Christie’s Dubai on 18 April 2012).
Private exhibitions are proliferating because, in parallel to the auction system, they represent an increasingly important market for auction companies. Indeed, the auction houses are posting steadily rising turnovers from this activity: Christie’s private sales activity posted a 13% increase in H1 2013 versus the same period a year earlier.