Last week, I spent a relaxing afternoon at Christie’s auction house walking through the galleries and attending an auction. I’ve walked by the building quite often, but had no idea what was inside. I looked online to see what was open to the public, and found out that it’s pretty much like a free museum, except, you can actually purchase what you see.
First thing I did online was to check the Christie’s site under “Viewings” (in the drop-down under “Calendar & Results”) and checked off New York, Rockefeller Center to narrow the results. All viewings are free and open to the public, so anyone can just walk in. From there, I checked the calendar to see what piqued my interest. I was curious about Christie’s Interiors, so I noted the dates for those viewings.
Walking through the door, I made a left at the front desk and starting wandering the halls and gallery spaces. The viewings are on the first and second floors. There is usually more than one sale happening on any given day, so I was in for treat, being able to see other viewings for upcoming auctions.
I walked the first floor first, which held artwork for the Post-War and Contemporary auction. One thing to note that makes you realize you’re not in a museum—there are salespeople walking the space, instead of just security guards. I liked that they left me alone and didn’t approach me unless I had a question for them.
On the second floor was the Christie’s Interiors salesroom, a giant room filled with everything to decorate a home. Charming decorative pieces to 10-piece dining room chair sets were on sale. In this room, you can sit on the chairs and touch all of the pieces to be sold.
Each item is tagged and there’s a reference book available to peruse (also can be viewed online as an ecatalogue) where all the items for sale are listed. The tag above shows a lot number 181/11. In the reference book, all sale items are listed numerically in order so this is sale item, or lot #181. The chair above is part of a set of 11, hence the 11 of 181/11.
Since there were a large number of lots (430!) for sale, the Christie’s Interiors auction was split into a total of three. I was able to attend one of those auctions. For this one, I was just able to walk into the auction room and take a seat and watch. (Check online to see upcoming auction dates to sit in on one.)
Now, to get a paddle to bid on a lot is a whole different ball game. There’s a registration process all potential buyers will need to go through which involves a financial check. Only after you’re approved will you be able to get a paddle. Thankfully, you don’t need a paddle to sit in on an auction.
I got to the auction room a bit before it began and took a peek where they take bids over the phone.
Since the auction was at 2PM, the room was fairly empty. Most bids were taken over the phone or online. The blue screen on the left shows the current lot up for sale and the screen on the right shows the current highest bid price.
Some lots have reserves, so they won’t be sold until a certain price is met. Almost all lots at this Interiors sale had no reserve prices, which meant that there were quite a few bargains to be found. A set of two large chaises were estimated to be $3000 – $5000 in the reference book. The initial price called out was $1500, half the estimate, and with no takers at that price, the number kept going down until they sold for $700. For a second, I thought I was at Ikea with those prices.
Next time I’m looking for a unique piece to add to my home, I’ll definitely be checking the Christie’s Interiors sale, since not everything is out of my price range.
If you have visitors in from out of town, taking them to Christie’s would be a fun excursion, especially if they were to attend an auction for a Picasso or a Rothko.
LOCATION: Christie’s | 20 Rockefeller Plaza on 49th Street btw 5th and 6th Ave. | New York, NY 10020 | 212.636.2000