'CSK' to shut
March 20 2017
Sad news indeed that Christie's South Kensington site, where they hold their less important and regular 'Interior' sales, is to close. The move is part of a wider headcount reduction across a number of Christie's sites, including Paris and Amsterdam. The news drew a sharp reaction from Susan Moore in Apollo.
Christie's say the decisions is due to increased bidding online. To the extent that people are placing their final bid online, that might be true: the last few sales I've been to a South Kensington have been almost embarrasingly empty - the poor auctioneer doing his stuff in front of one of two people - but with plenty of bids online and from the phone. But of course that's not to say that these online bidders don't want to first view the items in person. Christie's say that more sales will now be held at their main King St premises in St James.
Sotheby's closed their equivalent site, at Olympia, many years ago. That was a much less accessible location. The South Kensington site, however, seemed to be benefitting from Christie's new 'Interior' sales, which I loved, and which helped promote antiques to a new audience. Some of the stuff on offer was, of course, fantastically cheap, so the margins cannot have been great.
Personally, I shall miss what was a useful source of 'sleepers'. The fact that Christie's main specialists were based in King Street sometimes led to some gems slipping through the net. Often these were picked up before anyone had the chance to buy them (for example, the £5m Claude seascape of St Paula, and the Saenredam view of Assendelft). My own favourite discoveries from when I used to work for Philip Mould (and sorry if this sounds like boasting) included: a Van Dyck head study of St Joseph; a Van Dyck portrait of Henrietta Maria (massively overpainted, and later featured on an episode of 'Fake or Fortune?'); a Reynolds of the Earl Fitzwilliam; and a fine half-length early portrait by Ramsay now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Finally, if I hadn't discovered a lost portrait of Cardinal York at CSK, then I would never have begun my investigations into Jacobite portraiture, which means I wouldn't have met my wife, be living in Scotland, and be typing this now. One way or another, I owe Christie's South Kensington a lot.