As COVID-19 spread across the world, the art scene and major cultural institutions were quick to feel the immediate effects that came with restrictions and lockdown. Tourist attractions like the Louvre and various other museums and art galleries were forced to close, with many questioning just when they would once again re-open. And while some have been fortunate enough to pivot to online models where they can showcase famous works to people around the world through virtual tools and technology, as far as auctions are concerned, people seemed to have more questions than answers.
But never one to shy away from a challenge, auction house Sotheby’s has pivoted to an online auction model and seen incredible success, proving that the design market’s momentum and growth is still continuing, even despite the stress and uncertainty of this time.
While it seemed that COVID-19 would see people boycott auctions in favour of outfitting their homes with the latest in doomsday preparation and stacks of toilet paper, this couldn’t be further from the truth if a recent online auction held by the major auction house is anything to go by.
Sotheby’s set the highest-ever result for an online sale of 20th century design, with a sale that saw nearly half of all pieces offered sell for more than their highest estimates. As Hype Beast suggests, it shows “how online auction programs can be successful” with bidders coming from 31 countries and one-third of bids coming from mobile devices.
Amongst the items listed for auction were a series of windows designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, raking in a rather staggering $487,500 USD, as well as an 1895 “Moorish” wire chandelier by Tiffany Studios that sold for $300,000 USD, fetching a price that was 20 times its estimated total. Jean Prouve’s pair of “Direction” armchairs also went up for sale and fetched a price of $175,000 USD.
Speaking to the publication, Jodi Pollack, co-worldwide Head of Sotheby’s 20th Century Design department, said: “The remarkable success of our mid-season design auction demonstrates the strong demand we continue to see from collectors worldwide for works across the full spectrum of the design markets...Our record total also reinforces the confidence and shift we are seeing towards bidding and buying online.”