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Sophie Colin

“The ultimate experience of the sale room, it is the thrill”
How can we preserve the bidding fever in a digital world, by Édouard Boccon-Gibod, the new managing director of Christie’s France.

 © Sylvain Fuchs
Managing director of Christie’s France since December 2014, Edouard Boccon-Gibod breaks the traditional codes of auction houses thanks to his atypical professional background: in particular, he was the manager of the free daily newspaper Metro France and he directed TF1 production. From digitalisation of auctions sales, to the expansion of new departments – bags and accessories – and the contemporary art effervescent: for Pluris, he decrypts the numerous challenges that the prestigious auction house - funded in 1766 – will have to face.

Pluris – What surprised you the most when you first came to Christie’s ?

Edouard Boccon-Gibod – When you come from a business world as regulate as the audiovisual sector, you first have this feeling of freedom, the one of free circulation of artworks, of information, of sales, in the context of globalisation, in which two major actors with absolute presence engage in Homeric showdowns on all theatres. The second point is the importance of contemporary art on the market. Finally, it is the youth, the motivation and the implication of the staff.

In a world where information is as easy to access, how can an auction house remain relevant?

The transmission of knowledge is possible beside Google’s algorithms, thankfully! For the failures, the battle has been lost since Kasparov lost against “Deep Blue”, but in our business, expertise is crucial. The intuition, the capacity to analyse precisely an entire artwork, the teaching of professional and the perfect knowledge of any school, or any artistic movement always need a human spirit with his doubts and certainties, which offers a genuine added value.

Did the communication with the collectors evolve?

Yes, of course it has. What has evolved most is the clients’ perfect knowledge of past transactions’ value, thanks to platforms such as Artnet or Artprice. Having said that, an auction sale remains a special moment in which the market acts in front of you. It stays a unique experience. We can apply it for artworks worth more than 50€, 50 000€ or 5 000 000€, but it is always the same passion, the same engagement and the same pleasure of the junction between demand and offer.

How can digital make the auction experience evolve?

Nowadays, you have the possibility to outbid on the Internet, in particular on your mobile phone thanks to the application Christie’s, and this without subscribing to the sale beforehand if the amount does not exceed 30 000€. It is a radical change, from now on, you have an open trading room without necessarily knowing, in advance, the interest that could be generated from it. The auctioneer needs a third eye, hereafter the room and the telephone, the one of the screen in front of him, which tells the orders of the Internet. When the Internet connection is disturbed or interrupted, the sale is stopped!

Will the share of digital keep growing?

Today, about 16% of the sales are done through the Internet. One of the indicators that we follow especially is the average value of the different batches realised on sale exclusively online, and this value keeps increasing. A Richard Serra has been sold for 900 000$ on an online sale, as well as jewels for the price of 120 000€ and Picasso’s ceramics for 50 000€. Having said that, after a certain price or a certain shape, it is indispensable for the collector to have a physical contact with the artwork. And do not forget that the ultimate experience of an auction is the chills felt in the room.
Crédits photo : Sylvain Fuchs
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