In March Christie’s announced it is reviewing the future of its South Kensington premises to “offer a single destination to collectors in London”. Around 250 jobs are at risk across the entire company as part of the consolidation which also includes the closure of its Amsterdam base.
Although it is expected that Bonhams – potentially the only international saleroom with a secondary London premises – will win some business, a group of leading London and regional auctioneers are hoping to benefit from any market void.
Sworders in Essex is on the hunt for a London valuation office in the South Kensington area and will shortly begin recruiting for a general valuer.
Managing director Guy Schooling said he is searching for someone who has “business- getting experience” to run this London outpost.
Bellmans in Sussex already works with Christie’s on a referral basis for some clients and has been in discussions about further opportunities.
Jonathan Pratt, managing director of Bellmans, said: “We have been working with people from Christie’s for many years.
There will be a huge hole left and the scope for other auctioneers is significant.”
"The goods will go to other salerooms"
Lyon & Turnbull, with an office in Pall Mall sourcing goods for sale in Edinburgh, and Salisbury’s Woolley & Wallis, with an office in Clifford Street, are also expected to be contenders in attracting people and business.
W&W chairman Paul Viney said: “Christie’s South Kensington has always employed excellent specialists. If any of them choose to contact us – particularly in areas we do not currently specialise in – then we would be foolish not to explore the possibilities.
“The goods will dissipate to other salerooms just as they did in the 1980s when Sotheby’s closed Belgravia and again in 2007 when Olympia shut.”
Two established London salerooms are also on a recruitment drive.
Roseberys’ director Vicki Wonfor said that although it is a “real shame for the auction community as a whole” that Christie’s is downsizing, she believes a smaller auction room “can take advantage of opportunities that are presented to us quickly, including those that may come as a result of changes in the structure of our direct competitors in London”.
She added that Roseberys could “become an alternative destination for both buyers and sellers”.
Chiswick Auctions is also hoping to hire specialists from Christie’s. Leigh Osborne, operations director at Chiswick Auctions, said: “We have 18 specialist departments and are only six tube stops away from South Kensington. We are actively encouraging Christie’s people to join us and we would love to hear from them.”
A Christie’s spokeswoman told ATG that it will “incorporate the best of South Kensington” into its King Street premises as well as its online platforms.
“We do not anticipate exiting any specialist areas and are committed to a strong decorative arts programme among the other offerings. The site is closing, but the audience we serve is still a priority,” she added.