Dinosaur and Andy Warhol: how did the corona affect the auctions?

Stan the Dinosaur must not have imagined millions of years ago that he was worth so much. Its skeleton was discovered in 1987 and exhumed in 1992, and in October 2020 the spectacular T-REX was sold to a happy anonymous buyer for $31 million at a Christie’s New York auction.

A few months ago The Rock, the largest white diamond ever seen, was sold at auction. Its size is 228 carats, it is pear-shaped and it was mined more than two decades ago in South America. The Rock was sold in Geneva at a particularly intriguing Christie’s auction for a final sum of 21.6 million Swiss francs and stirred up the diamond market.

Dinosaur skeleton (Photo: Christie’s Images Limited 2022)

A little earlier, Christie’s auction house made headlines with an auction in New York of the 20th century art collection of Thomas and Doris Aman. As part of the sale, a portrait of Marilyn Monroe “Blue Marilyn”, painted by the pop art artist Andy Warhol in his “Factory” was sold for a price of 195 million dollars.

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But the most famous work of art sold by the auction house belongs to none other than Leonardo da Vinci, and it is “Salvator Mundi” (Savior of the World), which shows Christ crossing two fingers and holding a crystal ball. The piece was sold in 2017 at Christie’s New York for a final amount of 450 million dollars.

Ardon or Robin?
“It’s the dream, it’s the movie – collectors want to know what happens during the sale,” explains Roni Gilat-Beharev, CEO of Christie’s Israel. “People come to see the show. They stand in the room and clap their hands. They say to themselves: ‘There was a sale here. An object is sold’, and that excites them.”

Why is this so?
“They sit in a room with very rich people and before their eyes 100 million dollars change hands. Why are people excited about this? Maybe because it’s something they don’t have. It’s a show. They’re in the room, they’re there and they see this record and one day they’ll tell their children about it. I was in sales Many of these, including those from the Rockefeller collection, Elizabeth Taylor and Thomas and Doris Aman.”

In her first interview with the media, Gilat-Bahrab takes us into the intricacies of the glittering corridors of the largest and most famous auction house in the world. According to which, the corona has devoured the cards and the rules. “Today, people sit at home during the sale and can watch and participate in the process online. I wonder who is there, behind the computer. It used to be a black tie event, when people booked seats in the hall and it was also a social event. Today, you can do it from the bed in your pajamas, and there is no We have no idea who is in front of us or in the room. They decide, after looking online in the sale catalog, that an item interests them. You can find all the information about it on the computer and ask additional questions to the person who is physically present at the sale. This is true if they are in Shanghai, Tel Aviv and New York, and they can Contact us to ask and check anything that interests them about any item we sell.”

What is the sales process?
“People who have works of art for sale contact us or we contact them. We have experts in the company for almost everything and anywhere in the world. If someone in New York has Israeli art, such as a picture by Mordechai Ardon or Reuven Rubin, they will likely contact me and I can give them an appraisal “.

“Let’s say a picture of Tintoretto pops up in Tel Aviv, we’ll send a photo to antique art experts in London or New York. Assuming the owner has received the appraisal and agrees to a minimum price, we’ll sign a contract, the item will be sent abroad for inspection, and we’ll help with the accompanying documents. Abroad, our expert will check the item. There is sometimes a process of contacting external experts. For example, when it comes to a work by the artist Marc Chagall, each of his works will be sent for inspection by an external committee to confirm the originality. The item will enter the sale catalog and will be published a few weeks before it.”

beeple NFT (צילום: christie's images Limited 2022)beeple NFT (צילום: christie’s images Limited 2022)

“We used to print a catalog, and the process was longer. Today, you can go to the Christie’s website online, see dozens of auctions, enter an item, zoom in and out, and even in some catalogs simulate it in a room and get a sense of how the item will look on the wall. You can also browse in an item in Super Zoom to the level of the artist’s fingerprint. Technology has changed a great deal in the way art can be consumed remotely. After the sale, the company pays the seller minus the commission and expenses agreed with him. The auction house has a five-year warranty for the item sold. If it is proven within the five years that it is not redeemable , the transaction will be cancelled. Each item is inspected in detail, in accordance with market requirements. Every image we sell and every item undergo a careful inspection.”

Andy Warhol's painting (Photo: Christie's Images Limited 2022)Andy Warhol’s painting (Photo: Christie’s Images Limited 2022)

between Israel and the world

Roni Gilat-Baharev, Tel Avivite, married and mother of three children, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Tel Aviv University and a master’s degree from the Courtauld Institute in London. Her field is impressionist, modern and 20th century art.

When she finished her studies in London, she worked at Christie’s London. She returned to Israel, and when auctions began in Israel in 1994, they were looking for an expert in the field. First, she was responsible for sales in Tel Aviv. In 2008, a sweeping decision was made in the company to reduce auctions outside the centers, and it currently works mainly with the international market.

The Israeli branch of Christie’s has existed since 1984. Why was it opened?
“There are Christie’s in many countries in Europe, the USA, the Emirates, South America and Asia. The company is interested in maintaining contact with the local community, with collectors, with sellers and potential buyers and with galleries. The Israeli branch had an early incarnation of a print gallery, which very quickly became a branch of the auction house. I’ve been working at the local branch for 28 years.”

Gilat-Bahrab differentiates between the local and the international market. “The market in Israel is mostly for Israeli art, which is strictly speaking from 1906, when it was founded in Bezalel. The Israeli market includes great galleries, fantastic artists and auction houses, and all of them deal mainly with our art. It is a flat market, it has no historical depth. Most of the market is concentrated on the art of 20th century and contains Israeli artists. This is the result of our history. We are immigrants, and here we do not have the depth of the art collections of generations that exist in countries like Switzerland or England, which were never invaded. Abroad, the art market reflects the history of the place, merchants in the collected objects that represent a picture of the history of local collecting.”

In the first half of 2022, post-epidemic, not normal years, Christie’s turnover was $4 billion. “It is a huge, international market, very different from the Israeli market. We have great artists, a diverse artistic language and the art of immigrants, but its value is determined in Israel, because the market is mainly local. In Israel there are few families who came to Israel with historical art collections, and the Jews in general were not known As a collector of 19th century art and the Enlightenment movement. As someone who grew up here, I have been thinking a lot in recent years about the generation that perished in the Holocaust and did not bring its cultural world to Israel. We know our history two generations back, no more than that. When you think the same way about the Israeli art market, You understand that you are looking at a collection of art that remains now or at recent history.”

Roni Gilat-Bahrab (Photo: Hagar Bader)Roni Gilat-Bahrab (Photo: Hagar Bader)

What’s going on in the world?
“The international market is interesting, multi-layered and very dynamic. There is the upper layer of the story and the dream that we like to hear about in the news. For example, in November 2022, Paul Allen’s art collection, which is valued at around one billion dollars, is going to be sold in New York. The proceeds will be devoted to a donation. Buying high-quality works Such is luxury – it is not for bread and milk. Earlier this year we sold a picture of Andy Warhol, a portrait of Marilyn Monroe from the Thomas and Doris Aman collection for 195 million dollars, and in this case too the proceeds were transferred to support institutions that were important to the owner.”

Which markets are emerging?
“In recent years, we have seen a lively and developing market of buyers in the Far East. In these places, the new collectors will not necessarily want to acquire European or American culture. Many times we see a flourishing of local art, ancient or contemporary, as seen in the Asian market. These items are of interest to collectors Both in Asia and abroad. When the market is strong, important collections go on sale. One of them, which will be sold this year, is the collection of Anne and Gordon Getty. As part of four days of sales in New York, 1,500 items, art, furniture and more from their home in San Francisco will be offered. That’s a lot of energy “.

If this is the dream, what is real life?
“Not everyone consumes art. An interesting test is the contemporary art market. The market is driven by younger people who are interested in technology and it is accessible to them. The corona has kicked forward the art market in everything related to technology. Already in the first crossing of 2022 we have about 30% More new buyers in online sales. The dream is what they write about in the newspaper, but the international art market consists of many sales of lower value items. For example, watches, prints or furniture from the 20th century. The jewelry market is huge: women buy jewelry in a store or at a jeweler, But today they can also buy online for hundreds of thousands of dollars or a few thousand dollars.”

“The Rock” diamond (Photo: Christie’s Images Limited 2022)

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What is the cheapest item?
“5,000 dollars or more. There are things we sell without a minimum price. That is, we sometimes agree with sellers that the item will be sold at any price, regardless of the estimate published in the catalog. This is a tactic in which buyers are made to compete with each other. It happens in all areas – pictures, books, porcelain and carpets It only takes two people to compete for the item.”

What is fashionable now?
“For several years, the works of artists of the 1980s, such as Basquiat, have been sold at high prices. This is the taste of the generation of collectors. Some buy works by contemporary artists, and some buy works from the history of their childhood and of their country. Today’s generation of collectors came of age in the -70s and 80s. They buy the things that speak to them. For example, some people buy art by an artist from their era, because perhaps Picasso speaks less to them. The desire for ownership is significant and personal, and it is not always related only to the price. When a museum presents an exhibition about a certain artist, it It seems important to them. They decide that they invest in what is close to them, what excites them and what they connect with. It is deep, interesting, connected to multiculturalism and a never-ending process.”

What’s new?
“A relatively new market for us is the bag market. This is not a work of art, but a consumer product. Hermes bags are dominant in the market, because some of them are not available to buy in the store. A woman has to order the bag in the store and there is a waiting list of women who ordered before her. But if she wants it Now, she can get it immediately at an auction. We only sell them in excellent condition, new or like new. Sometimes the bag is still in the original packaging, because someone bought, she has enough bags and she hasn’t opened the box yet.”

“The dynamism of the market involves the inability of people to satisfy their needs at the moment in a store. We see a strengthening trend in the luxury watch market. There are watches that cannot be purchased in a store for various reasons: it takes time to produce them, there are more consumers, the manufacturer does not produce this model More and more. When more people want few things, competition is created in the market. While a bag or a watch are consumer goods and they are used, in art you are buying a work of an artist that appeals to emotion, but also for confidence in investing in certain artists, because watches are used on a daily basis.”


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