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The loss of about half of the workforce in Los Angeles will result in a dramatic reduction of the number of sales held on the West Coast next year. After January 2002 there will be no more auctions of jewellery, photographs, European furniture, post-war and Contemporary art, 20th century decorative arts, books and manuscripts and popular arts.

“Christie’s found that the market for certain collecting categories is especially vibrant and successful on the West Coast,” said an official statement from the company, which also confirmed that goods in those categories would be sourced for sales on the East Coast and in Europe. Specialists in the departments would be retained for this purpose. Next year there will be just four sales in Los Angeles – two of wine, two of Californian paintings – and an annual sale of motor cars up the coast at Pebble Beach.

The redundancies will be added to the 21 staff who left Christie’s New York last month and at least 40 employees who will lose their jobs in London, Athens, Oslo, Frankfurt and Copenhagen by the end of the year.