PRIVATE SALES: A VERY IMPORTANT FUNCTION OF THE AUCTION HOUSE

by leslierankowfinearts

PRIVATE SALES ARE AS SIGNIFICANT AN ACTIVITY IN THE AUCTION WORLD AS THE AUCTIONS THEMSELVES. THE SPECIALISTS IN EACH DEPARTMENT EVALUATE A WORK NOT ONLY FOR ITS AUTHENTICITY, MARKETABILITY, AND VALUE BUT ALSO TO ANALYZE THE BEST WAY IN WHICH TO PRESENT IT TO THE POTENTIAL BUYER.

I HAVE HAD THE PLEASURE OF WORKING WITH BARRETT WHITE FOR SEVERAL YEARS, FIRST AS  A SPECIALIST IN THE CONTEMPORARY ART DEPARTMENT.  SINCE 2006, BARRETT HAS FOCUSED ON CHRISTIE’S PRIVATE SALES INITIATIVE. BARRETT HAS KINDLY AGREED TO SPEAK WITH US ABOUT THE IMPORTANT ASPECT OF PRIVATE SALES IN THE AUCTION HOUSE FOR A COLLECTOR TO CONSIDER AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO AUCTION WHEN ACQUIRING OR DEACCESSIONING WORKS OF ART.

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MORE SPECIFICS ABOUT THIS TOPIC, PLEASE ASK!

BARRETT, TELL ME YOUR PROFESSIONAL HISTORY IN THE ART WORLD. I KNOW YOU HAVE HAD BOTH GALLERY AND AUCTION HOUSE EXPERIENCE. HOW DID YOU BECAME INVOLVED IN PRIVATE SALES AT CHRISTIE’S?

I came into the art world at a very early age. When I was a little boy, my mom was a painter studying for her MFA at Yale and I was fascinated by the whole world of art. I didn’t have the talent to become a painter myself but decided to study art history in college. I came to Christie’s at twenty-four through their management training program. Except for a year at L&M Arts, I have worked for Christie’s or one of its subsidiaries since 1999.

I learned the ropes in the context of the auction department- always contemporary – and did a stint in private sales and in photography.  The Graduate Trainee Program is structured to expose everyone to different aspects of the business by floating the trainees through different departments. I was assigned to photography, then post-war and contemporary and then began working as a cataloguer for Dominique Levy who ran private sales at Christie’s at that time. That early experience affected how I thought about the auction business and stimulated my interest in the private sales aspect of it.

In 2001, I became a specialist in the Post-War and Contemporary Department and in 2006 I was appointed the Head of Private Sales.

WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF PRIVATE SALES AT CHRISTIE’S? WHEN WAS THE DEPARTMENT FIRST ESTABLISHED AND TO WHAT CATEGORIES DOES IT APPLY?

Private sales have been a part of Christie’s since it was first founded by James Christie in 1766 when he sold a collection for the Royal Family. Christie’s transacts private sales in every department of our business.

Private Sales offers the biggest potential growth area for the company as a whole. We are looking to expand our already substantial private sale activity in every department of the business in an organic manner.

NEXT TIME, I LOOK FORWARD TO OUR CONTINUED CONVERSATION IN WHICH BARRETT WILL ZERO IN ON THE VARIETY OF CONDITIONS THAT A SELLER SHOULD ANALYZE IN DETERMINING THE BEST VENUE FOR THE SALE OF HIS WORK OF ART.

I WOULD WELCOME YOUR INPUT, AS READERS, QUESTIONS ABOUT THE AUCTION VS. PRIVATE SALES PROCESS, AND I KNOW BARRETT WOULD BE PLEASED TO OFFER HIS GREAT EXPERTISE.

UNTIL THEN…