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Iconic London auction house to close sale room

Thursday 20 April 2017

Iconic auction house Christies is set to close the doors on it's South Kensington sale room for good before the end of 2017.

Christies describe the Old Brompton Road sale room, which opened in 1975, as being the busiest saleroom in the UK. The branch currently holds over 60 auctions annually, "providing one of the most accessible, well lit and welcoming sales arenas in the world".

"Interiors sales dedicated to home furnishings are held every month alongside sales of single-owner collections, and specialized sales for the avid collector are scheduled throughout the year according to category."

Christies also state that the South Kensington sale room and exhibition spaces appeal to a worldwide audience – in 2015 buyers originated from over 75 countries.

However, rising rates and business costs along with a boom in online sales mean that it has become increasingly difficult for Christies to justify holding on to the prime real estate, especially as it sold their lower value items. It's also necessary for them to react to a rapidly changing global auction market.  

A balancing act

As they reduce the scope of operations in the UK and Europe they are expanding into other markets, responding to the boom in interest from China and the America's. They opened their first representative office in Shanghai in 1994.

In 2014 they opened premises in Shanghai at the historic Ampire Building offering high end art auctions, followed by a flagship Beijing space in October 2016 with a grand opening that featured an exhibition of works by Picasso that explored his influence on Chinese artists.

In recent years, there has been a massive surge of auctions being held online, something that would have previously been unheard of for higher end auction houses amid concerns of cheapening their image and status within the worldwide arena. Christies say that they saw a online sales double last year alone.

It's expected that lower value lots previously offered at South Kensington will now move online and that King Street will also absorb some of South Kensington's former business.