As the art market in Asia continues to boom, Christie’s has reformatted its traditional mid-season London modern and contemporary art evening sales to now include a component in Shanghai. That auction, titled “20/21 Century Shanghai to London” and set for March 1, will start out in the Chinese city before the action turns over to the British capital, where a Surrealist art evening sale will also be held.
This is not the first time Christie’s has spread a marquee auction across multiple cities—the house first launched the relay-sale format in 2020 as a response to Covid restrictions. The auction that inaugurated that format at Christie’s, titled “ONE,” introduced Hong Kong as a fixture in its relay sales. The addition of mainland China to March’s sale is crucial because it provides collectors there, who have grown increasingly active over the past few years, with an opportunity to compete in auctions typically confined to the West.
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“At the heart of this is our desire to showcase Western art in Asia and Asian artworks to the rest of the world,” Giovanna Bertazzoni, vice chairman of Christie’s 20th/21st century department, said in a statement.
The sale will also inaugurate Christie’s newly-relocated Shanghai outpost, a 5,250-square-foot sale center and exhibition space located in the cultural hub of the Bund district. Christie’s has had an office in the city since 1994, however, and it has been holding sales in Shanghai since 2013. During the pandemic, it has renewed its efforts to expand its footprint there. In May 2020, the house revealed plans to debut a major partnership with China Guardian Auctions to present a series of themed sales that was scheduled to debut in Shanghai last fall. The plan fell through due to Covid-related travel restrictions, but Christie’s pledged to keep its focus on the burgeoning region despite the setback.
Christie’s, which competes for business in Asia with Sotheby’s and Phillips, is the only auction house authorized to hold live auctions in mainland China, giving it a leg up in the region. With China now considered the third-largest country in the global art market, behind the U.S. and U.K., Christie’s has a lot to gain in the country.
Among the highlights slated for the March sale is Pablo Picasso’s La fenêtre ouverte (1929), which depicts the Spanish painter’s early muse Marie-Thérèse Walter. That painting has been in the same collection for 50 years, and is expected to fetch between £14 million and £24 million ($19 million and $32.5 million). Works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kees Van Dongen, Marc Chagall, Rene Magritte and Bridget Riley will also be offered in the series.