Last updated

Industry Art, auctions
Founded1766;253 years ago (1766)
Area served
Key people
François-Henri Pinault
Guillaume Cerutti (CEO)
Products Painting, modern art, fine arts, pop art
Parent Groupe Artémis
Christie's American branch in Rockefeller Center, New York Christie's (Manhattan, New York) 001.jpg
Christie's American branch in Rockefeller Center, New York

Christie's is a British auction house. It was founded in 1766 by James Christie. Its main premises are on King Street, St James's, in London and in the Rockefeller Center in New York City. [1] The company is owned by Groupe Artémis, the holding company of François-Henri Pinault. [2] Sales in 2018 totalled £5.3 billion (US$7 billion). [3] In 2017 the Salvator Mundi was sold for $450.3 million at Christie's, and which at that time was the highest price ever paid for a single painting at an auction. [4] In 2018 the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller realised the highest total for a Private Collection and became the most significant charitable auction ever, realising $835.1 million. [5]

James Christie (auctioneer) British auctioneer 1730-1803

James Christie (1730–1803) was the founder of auction house Christie's.

King Street, St Jamess street in City of Westminster, United Kingdom

King Street is a street in the St James's district of central London. It runs south-west to north-east from St James's Street to St James's Square.

Rockefeller Center mixed-use building complex in New York City

Rockefeller Center is a large complex consisting of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres (89,000 m2) between 48th and 51st Streets, facing Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The 14 original Art Deco buildings, commissioned by the Rockefeller family, span the area between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, split by a large sunken square and a private street called Rockefeller Plaza. Five International Style buildings, built later, are located on the west side of Sixth Avenue and at the north end of Rockefeller Plaza.



In A Peep at Christies (1799), James Gillray caricatured actress Elizabeth Farren and huntsman Lord Derby examining paintings appropriate to their tastes and heights. Peep-at-Christies-Gillray.jpeg
In A Peep at Christies (1799), 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, [6] 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 for Christie's sales dating from 1759 have also been traced. [7]


The Microcosm of London (1808), an engraving of Christie's auction room Microcosm of London Plate 006 - Auction Room, Christie's.jpg
The Microcosm of London (1808), an engraving of Christie's auction room

Christie's was a public company, listed on the London Stock Exchange, from 1973 to 1999. In 1974, Jo Floyd was appointed chairman of Christie's. He served as chairman of Christie's International plc from 1976 to 1988, until handing over to Lord Carrington, and later was a non-executive director until 1992. [8] Christie's International Inc. held its first sale in the United States in 1977. Christie's growth was slow but steady since 1989, when it had 42% of the auction market. [9]

London Stock Exchange Stock exchange in the City of London

London Stock Exchange is a stock exchange located in the City of London, England. As of April 2018, London Stock Exchange had a market capitalisation of US$4.59 trillion. It was founded in 1571, making it one of the oldest exchanges in the world. Its current premises are situated in Paternoster Square close to St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London. It is part of London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG).

Peter Carington, 6th Baron Carrington British Conservative politician

Peter Alexander Rupert Carington, 6th Baron Carrington,, was a British Conservative politician and hereditary peer who served as Defence Secretary from 1970 to 1974, Foreign Secretary from 1979 to 1982, chairman of British General Electric Company from 1983 to 1984, and Secretary General of NATO from 1984 to 1988. Before his death in 2018, he was the last surviving member of the 1951–55 government of Winston Churchill, the Eden government, and the Macmillan government, as well as of the cabinets of Alec Douglas-Home and Edward Heath. Following the House of Lords Act 1999, which removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, Carrington was created a life peer as Baron Carington of Upton.

In 1990, the company reversed a long-standing policy and guaranteed a minimum price for a collection of artworks in its May auctions. [10] In 1996, sales exceeded those of Sotheby's for the first time since 1954. [11] However, profits did not grow at the same pace; [12] from 1993 through 1997, Christie's annual pretax profits were about $60 million, whereas Sotheby's annual pretax profits were about $265 million for those years. [13]

In 1993, Christie's paid $12.7 million for the London gallery Spink & Son, which specialised in Oriental art and British paintings; the gallery was run as a separate entity. The company bought Leger Gallery for $3.3 million in 1996, and merged it with Spink to become Spink-Leger. [14] Spink-Leger closed in 2002. To make itself competitive with Sotheby's in the property market, Christie's bought Great Estates in 1995, then the largest network of independent estate agents in North America, changing its name to Christie's Great Estates Inc. [9]

Spink & Son

Spink & Son are an auction and collectibles company known principally for their sales of coins, banknotes, stock and bond certificates and medals. They also deal in philatelic items, wine and spirits, and other collectible items.

1998 takeover

In December 1997, under the chairmanship of Lord Hindlip, Christie's put itself on the auction block, but after two months of negotiations with the consortium-led investment firm SBC Warburg Dillon Read it did not attract a bid high enough to accept. [13] In May 1998, François Pinault's holding company, Groupe Artémis S.A., first bought 29.1 percent of the company for $243.2 million, and subsequently purchased the rest of it in a deal that valued the entire company at $1.2 billion. [12] The company has since not been reporting profits, though it gives sale totals twice a year. Its policy, in line with UK accounting standards, is to convert non-UK results using an average exchange rate weighted daily by sales throughout the year. [15] In 2002, Christie's France held its first auction in Paris. [16]

Charles Henry Allsopp, 6th Baron Hindlip is a British peer and businessman, a member of the House of Lords from 1993 until 1999.

François Pinault French businessman and art collector

François Pinault is a French billionaire businessman, the majority shareholder and honorary chairman of the retail conglomerate Kering, and art collector.

Like Sotheby's, Christie's became increasingly involved in high-profile private transactions. In 2006, Christie's offered a reported $21 million guarantee to the Donald Judd Foundation and displayed the artist's works for five weeks in an exhibition that later won an AICA award for "Best Installation in an Alternative Space". [17] In 2007 it brokered a $68 million deal that transferred Thomas Eakins's The Gross Clinic (1875) from the Jefferson Medical College at the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia to joint ownership by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. [18] In the same year, the Haunch of Venison gallery [19] became a subsidiary of the company. [20]

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. [21] In January 2009, the company employed 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; [22] later news reports said that 300 jobs would be cut. [23] With sales for premier Impressionist, Modern, and contemporary artworks tallying only US$248.8 million in comparison to US$739 million just a year before, a second round of job cuts began after May 2009. [24] Guy Bennett resigned just before to the beginning of the summer 2009 sales season. [25] 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. [23]

2010 onwards

On 1 January 2017, Guillaume Cerutti was appointed chief executive officer. [26] Patricia Barbizet was appointed chief executive officer of Christie's in 2014, the first female CEO of the company. [27] She replaced Steven Murphy, who had been hired in 2010 to develop their online presence and launch in new markets, such as China. [28] In 2012, Impressionist works, which dominated the market during the 1980s boom, were replaced by contemporary art as Christie's top category. Asian art was the third most-lucrative area. [15]

With income from classic auctioneering falling, treaty sales made £413.4 million ($665 million) in the first half of 2012, an increase of 53% on the same period last year; they now represent more than 18% of turnover. [29] The company has promoted curated events, centred on a theme rather than an art classification or time period. [30]

As part of a companywide review in 2017, Christie's announced the layoffs of 250 employees, or 12 percent of the total work force, based mainly in Britain and Europe. [31]


From 2008 until 2013, Christie's charged 25 percent for the first $50,000; 20 percent on the amount between $50,001 and $1 million, and 12 percent on the rest. From 2013, it charged 25 percent for the first $75,000; 20 percent on the next $75,001 to $1.5 million and 12 percent on the rest. [32]


Christie's main London salesroom is on King Street in St. James's, where it has been based since 1823. It had a second London salesroom in South Kensington which opened in 1975 and primarily handled the middle market. Christie's permanently closed the South Kensington salesroom in July 2017 as part of their restructuring plans announced March 2017. The closure was due in part to a considerable decrease in sales between 2015 and 2016 in addition to the company expanding its online sales presence. [33] [34]

The company opened a branch on Park Avenue in New York City in 1977; in 1997 it took a 30-year lease on a 28,000 m2 (300,000 sq ft) space in Rockefeller Center for $40 million. [35]

Until 2001, Christie's East, a division that sold lower-priced art and objects, was located at 219 East 67th Street. In 1996, Christie's bought a townhouse on East 59th Street in Manhattan as a separate gallery where experts could show clients art in complete privacy to conduct private treaty sales. [9] Christie's opened a Beverly Hills salesroom in 1997. [36]

In January 2009, [22] Christie's had 85 offices in 43 countries, including New York City, Los Angeles, Paris, Geneva, Houston, Amsterdam, Moscow, Vienna, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Rome, South Korea, Milan, Madrid, Japan, China, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Tel Aviv, Dubai, and Mexico City.

In early 2017, Christie's announced plans to close its secondary South Kensington salesroom at the end of the year and scale back its operation in Amsterdam. [31] In April 2017, Christie’s is to open a 4,500 square feet two-story flagship space in Beverly Hills, California. [37]

Price-fixing scandal

In 2000, allegations surfaced of a price-fixing arrangement between Christie's and Sotheby's. 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 as a longtime employee of Christie's confessed and cooperated with the US 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 CEO) were given jail sentences, and Christie's, Sotheby's and their owners also paid a civil lawsuit settlement of $512 million. [38] [39] [40]

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) Pontormo (Jacopo Carucci) (Italian, Florentine) - Portrait of a Halberdier (Francesco Guardi%3F) - Google Art Project.jpg
Pontormo, Portrait of a Halberdier, 1528–1530. Sold by Christie's for US $35. 2 million in 1989. (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles)

Christie's Fine Art Storage Services (CFASS)

Christie's first ventured into storage services for outside clients in 1984, when it opened a 100,000 square feet brick warehouse in London that was granted "Exempted Status" by HM Revenue and Customs, [74] meaning that property may be imported into the United Kingdom and stored without incurring import duties and VAT. Christie's Fine Art Storage Services, or CFASS, is a wholly owned subsidiary that runs Christie's storage operation.

In September 2008, Christie's signed a 50-year lease on an early 1900s warehouse of the historic New York Dock Company [75] in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and subsequently spent $30 million converting it into a six-storey, 250,000 square feet [76] art-storage facility. [74] The facility opened in 2010 and features high-tech security and climate controls that maintain a virtually constant 70° and 50% relative humidity. [77] Since 2009, Christie's has been the main tenant of the Singapore FreePort, taking up 40 per cent of the space to offer its fine art storage services to its global clients.

Located near the Upper Bay tidal waterway near the Atlantic Ocean, the Brooklyn facility was hit by at least one storm surge during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. CFASS subsequently faced client defections and complaints arising from damage to works of art. [75] In 2013, AXA Art Insurance filed a lawsuit in New York court alleging that CFASS' "gross negligence" during the hurricane damaged art collected by late cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and his wife Jacqueline Rebecca Louise de Rothschild. [78] Later that year, StarNet Insurance Co., the insurer for the LeRoy Neiman Foundation and the artist's estate, also filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court claiming that the storage company's negligence caused more than $10 million in damages to Neiman's art. [79]


Christie's Education offers graduate programmes in London and New York, and non-degree programmes in London, Paris, New York and Melbourne. [80]

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. [81]

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