CELEBRATING ITS 250TH ANNIVERSARY IN A CLASS OF ITS OWN
2016 is a big year for world leading art business and auction house Christie’s. With important auctions and anniversary celebrations coming up – from its founding in 1766 by James Christie to celebrating 10 year anniversaries in younger markets such as Dubai and 30 years in Hong Kong, Christie’s is abuzz with activity.
And beyond its special birthdays, Christie’s certainly has a lot to celebrate – it closed 2015 with auctions, private and digital sales totalling £4.8 billion ($7.4 billion). Today, the company offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine and more. Prices range from $200 to over 100 million. Christie’s also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with an emphasis on Post-War, Contemporary, Impressionist, Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery. Also to honor is Christie’s global presence. With 54 offices in 32 countries and 12 salesrooms around the world including London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zurich, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Mumbai, Christie’s stands proudly in the international limelight. More recently, Christie’s has led the market with expanded initiatives in growth markets such as Russia, China, India and the United Arab Emirates, with successful sales and exhibitions in Beijing, Mumbai and Dubai.
Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour. Since 1766, Christie’s has conducted the greatest and most celebrated auctions through the centuries providing a popular showcase for the unique and the beautiful, for the intellectual and artistic elite, international aristocrats and royalty, and at the same time open to the general public during exhibition and auction times. Besides being prestigious, Christie’s is also digitally dynamic – offering Christie’s LIVETM online bidding for its auctions, separate online auctions, online shops for handbags and watches. Additionally, you can download complete catalogues from the company website, or via Christie’s Mobile, iPhone, iPad and Android apps. Members of the greater Christie’s ‘family’ are Collectrium, a leading collection management platform company for high-value fine art and collectibles acquired in 2015; Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services, a premier storage provider for fine art, antiques and collectibles with locations in New York and Singapore Freeport; Christie’s Education London and New York, wholly owned by Christie’s for practical experience of art through education with degree and nondegree programmes; and Christie’s International Real Estate connecting buyers and sellers of the world’s most important properties through more than 1,200 affiliate offices with 32,000 agents in 45 countries and a combined annual sales volume of approximately $118 billion.
To illustrate the variety of objects Christie’s handles, here is a short selection: George Washington’s Act of Congress, Pablo Picasso’s $179 million Les Femmes d’Algèr, jewels from the collection of Elizabeth Taylor or the Oppenheimer Blue, the most expensive jewel ever sold at auction realising $58 million after a 25 minute bidder-battle, a 1966 Double-Decker London Bus, the Hammer Codex by Leonardo da Vinci, dedicated auctions to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Patek Philippe or 40 years of Star Trek, Rembrandt paintings which hang today at The Louvre, Paris and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, or Ferdinand Hodler’s ‘Der Traum des Hirten’ today part of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. So happy birthday Christie’s! Here’s to many more glorious years. Project Luxury & Art sat down recently to meet with Christie’s Chairman, International Director and Auctioneer, Andreas Rumbler, the perfect gentleman and spokesperson for this distinguished company. Rumbler began his Christie’s career in 1989 by joining the print department in London at the company’s headquarters. He soon moved into the Impressionist and Modern Art field and became responsible for the annual German and Austrian Art auction. Aside from his responsibilities for Modern Paintings, Rumbler was appointed Managing Director of Christie’s Germany in 2000 and moved to Düsseldorf. Today, Rumbler is Chairman of Christie’s Switzerland, as well as international director of the Twentieth Century Art department. In his 27-year long career at Christie’s, Rumbler consigned thousands of works of art and rediscovered several, one of which one was Herbstsonne, painted by Egon Schiele in 1914. The painting was believed to have been lost to the art world until its re-discovery in a small French flat back in 2005. The painting was restituted to its heirs and subsequently sold at Christie’s for £11.8 million. He advises private collectors and institutions in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Japan in the buying and selling of art and as an auctioneer he holds sales for Christie’s in London, New York and Zurich as well as charity sales worldwide.
Although auctioneering represents only 20 per cent of his work, Rumbler has become a true natural having participated in and achieved enormous results at some of Christie’s most vibrant, mediatised and high-stake auctions – the important Impressionist and Modern as well as Post-War and Contemporary day and evening sales. In November 2014, Rumbler was on the rostrum in New York when Edouard Manet’s Le Printemps, painted in 1881, was the only lot of that evening surpassing the $10 million mark, knocked down for $65 million, setting the new auction record price for Manet to date. The following Spring season in New York, Rumbler was again responsible for setting another auction record, this time for Piet Mondrian’s Composition No. III, Red, Blue, Yellow, and Black, 1929, selling for $50.5 million. Also his recordbreaking performances at the charity galas and fundraisers alongside Grace Jones or Shirley Bassey, just to name two, are moments Rumbler enjoys a lot. It was not always so clear to Rumbler that his path would take him to slamming down hammers and holding reins in the art world. Although very encouraged by his father to pursue the arts, Rumbler remembers his first awkward coaching session for auctioneering. After an uncertain start though, circumstances brought him quickly onto the podium, and his first and successful performance was the beginning of an adrenaline-filled and remarkable professional journey that is still running. Yet despite all his success and Christie’s growing accolades, Rumbler remains a modest, grounded professional, highly committed to his work, his company and the world of art. Eloquence, elegance and in-depth knowledge of what he is actually advising, consulting or selling, are Rumbler’s signature qualities.
Whether participating in the time and knowledge intensive advisory relationships he develops with all his clients or preparing for fact-filled, psychology-laden performances on podiums across the world, Rumbler combines his deep respect for the aesthetics of art, for the quantitative with the qualitative. In art, pictures and numbers count tremendously, but both must be integrated into the overall strategy of the sale, the acquisition, the curation, the consultation or the auction. We think that Andreas Rumbler could sell ice-cubes to an Eskimo, but he would not dare. Rumbler firmly believes that art is a business built on trust, over time and diverse experiences, and he highly values his interaction with collectors, clients, experts and colleagues. When asked if he could imagine using his auctioneer talents in other areas or industries, the answer was a clear no, ‘You have to know what you are talking about – everything.’ ‘It is by staying true to the tenets established by the founder, James Christie I, that Christie’s remains so reliable an institution: as a place to view the very best objects of desire and a place to buy and sell topquality works of art. It can only look forward to the next 250 years.’
If you have not attended an auction yet, have inherited a potentially valuable artwork or are ready to invest in a unique piece, this is your year to visit Christie’s. The 2016 summer season at Christie’s will present four weeks of activity and is headlined by the launch of its 250th anniversary celebrations. Over a period of 27 days over 2,000 objects will pass through the doors of Christie’s London, ranging from ancient to contemporary. On public view from 17 June, together the 250th Anniversary, Twentieth Century and Classic Week will feature major names including Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Barbara Hepworth, Georg Baselitz, Walter Sickert, Bridget Riley, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol alongside discoveries in the fields of ancient glass, gold boxes and scientific manuscripts, amongst others. Opening a programme of special events in its landmark year, Defining British Art brings together a loan exhibition of key works from the history of British Art that have been handled by Christie’s during its 250-year history. This will be complemented by the Defining British Art Evening Sale on 30 June, in which works by artists such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Stanley Spencer will illuminate the sale room in King Street.
Another major highlight this season includes the Twentieth Century at Christie’s that takes place from 17 June to 7 July and sees the Modern British and Irish Art Evening Sale, Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale and the Post- War and Contemporary Evening Auction take place in parallel with day and online sales including Impressionist works on paper and Picasso ceramics, as well as some of the most in-demand names in contemporary art. The season concludes with London’s first edition of Classic Week, which takes place from 5–13 July, a cross-category series of auctions which brings Old Master Paintings and The Exceptional Sale together with sales for antiquities, books and manuscripts, Rembrandt prints, Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite and British Impressionist Art, amongst others. Headlining the week, Rubens’ Lot and His Daughters, circa 1613–14, will be brought to auction and public view for the first time in the painting’s history and leads the Old Master Paintings Evening Sale on 7 July.