Christie’s Website Still Down Hours Before Evening Sales, Causing Concerns

With just hours to go before Christie’s evening sales on Tuesday night, the auction house’s website was still down following a cyberattack. Art advisers and collectors expressed concern to ARTnews about how this could affect sales of more than $500 million worth of art amid an already challenging market for consignors, with very few estates on the block.

“It makes you wonder who did it. Whoever did that was intentional about timing,” art adviser Elizabeth Fiore told ARTnews. Then she sounded a hopeful note. “There are still great pieces of art, and still buyers to buy them.”

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When ARTnews reached out to Christie’s about the matter on May 10, a spokesperson said a “technology security issue” was the cause of its website being down. “We are taking all necessary steps to manage this matter, with the engagement of a team of additional technology experts,” a spokesperson said. “We regret any inconvenience to our clients and our priority is to minimize any further disruption. We will provide further updates to our clients as appropriate.”

The auction house declined to say whether the issue was due to hackers or a cyberattack. The house also did not respond to inquiries about whether any of the private or financial data it collects about its clients had been accessed or stolen, but told the Wall Street Journal it would inform customers if that had occurred.

“We’re still working on resolving the incident, but we want to make sure we’re continuing our sales and assuring our clients that it’s safe to bid,” Christie’s chief executive Guillaume Cerutti told the Wall Street Journal.

Still, advisers told ARTnews that the ability to take part via Christie’s website is a big concern for consignors.

“Some collectors prefer to bid online,” art adviser David Shapiro told ARTnews. “If they cannot do so, this will reduce the number of bidders for certain lots, which has the potential to affect attainable prices.”

Cerutti asserted to the Wall Street Journal that Christie’s has “gone into overdrive” to reassure some of the world’s wealthiest collectors that the New York sales would go on without further issues. The auction schedule for its New York sales of Impressionist, modern, and contemporary art remained unchanged. Only a watch sale in Geneva was postponed from May 13 to today.

In a slate of evening sales with few big names, Christie’s has one of the few with the estates: a collection of Rosa de la Cruz, estimated at $25 million. The Miami arts patron died in February, and the works from her private foundation include a Felix Gonzalez-Torres light sculpture with an estimate of of $8 million to $12 million.

Competing auction houses Sotheby’s and Phillips have not reported similar attacks on their websites.

Some collectors said they were intimately familiar with outages like the one Christie’s is currently facing. American businessman and ARTnews Top 200 Collector Bruce E. Toll said he had purchased modernist works at auction and that he had personal experience with cyberattacks, after one targeted the Toll Brothers company in 2019. Toll told ARTnews that the experience cost an insurance company millions to deal with, due to Toll Brother’s cyber liability policy. “I paid the ransom within 24 hours,” he explained. “What was I going to do, go out of business?”

Toll, who toured all the auction houses in person ahead of the sales this week, was shocked that Christie’s website had been down for several days. “I can’t believe it,” he said. “When I hang up with you, I’m going to call them. I’m going to say: Why didn’t you pay the ransom? It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.” (When ARTnews specifically asked if Christie’s received a ransom demand, the house did not respond and reiterated that it had experienced a “technology security incident” on May 9.)

He had a simple theory for why Christie’s hasn’t used the words “cyberattack” or “hacker” in its public statements so far: “They’re nervous. They don’t want to be hacked again.”

A Christie’s spokesperson said that Cerutti was unavailable to comment to ARTnews.


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