Christie's is a leading art business and a fine arts auction house.
There is speculation as to when Christie's was founded.
The official company literature states that Christie's was founded in London, England on 5 December 1766 by James Christie, and the earliest auction catalogue the company retains is from December 1766. However, other sources note that James Christie rented auction rooms from 1762, and newspaper advertisements of Christie's sales dating from 1759 have also been traced.
Christie's soon established a reputation as a leading auction house, and took advantage of London's new found status as the major centre of the international art trade after the French Revolution.
Christie's was a public company, listed on the London Stock Exchange from 1973 to 1999, after which it was taken into private ownership by Frenchman François Pinault. Christie's has held the greater market share against its longtime rival, Sotheby's, for several years and is currently the world's largest auction house by revenues.
The Christie's New York sign was created by Nancy Meyers during the production of Something's Gotta Give for an exterior shot. The auction house liked the sign so much that they requested the production leave it after shooting finished.
Christie's main London saleroom is on King Street in St. James's, where it has been based since 1823. It also has a second London saleroom in South Kensington which opened in 1975 and primarily handles the middle market. Christie's South Kensington is one of the worlds busiest auction rooms. Christie's also has offices (not all are salerooms) worldwide including New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam, Moscow, Vienna, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Rome, South Korea, Milan, Spain, Japan, China, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Tel Aviv, Dubai, and Mexico City.
In 2000, allegations surfaced of a price-fixing arrangement between Christie's and Sotheby's
, another major auction house. Executives from Christie's subsequently alerted the Department of Justice of their suspicions of commission-fixing collusion
. Christie's gained immunity from prosecution in the United States after a longtime employee of Christie's confessed and cooperated with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation
. Numerous members of Sotheby's senior management were fired soon thereafter, and A. Alfred Taubman
, the largest shareholder of Sotheby's at the time, took most of the blame; he and Dede Brooks (the COO) were given jail sentences.
More recently, Christie's has auctioned off artwork and personal possessions linked to historical figures such as Pablo Picasso
; Diana, Princess of Wales
; Leonardo da Vinci
; Vincent van Gogh
; Napoleon Bonaparte
; Marilyn Monroe
; and others. In 1998, Christie's in New York sold the famous Archimedes Palimpsest
after the conclusion of a lawsuit in which its ownership was disputed.
On Jan. 31 and Feb.1, 2007 Christie's auction house sold a total of $21 million worth of jewelry and art in Dubai. It was the first time ever an international auction house had held a jewelry sale in the Middle Eastern tourist and retail mecca, and the second sale of art
In October 2006 Christie's auctioned 1,000 lots of official Star Trek contents from the CBS Paramount Television studios. A model of the starship Enterprise-D, used in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek Generations sold for $576,000. In December 2006 the black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's was sold for £467,200 at Christie's South Kensington.
Christie's continues to dominate the global market for fine arts, having staged the five largest auctions of all time in November 2006, and May and June 2007.
In 1995, Christie's became the first international auction house to exhibit works of art in Beijing, China.
In 1987, during the Royal Albert Hall auction, Christie famously auctioned off a Bugatti Royale automobile for a world record price of £5.5 million.
In 2008, the Ink and wash painting of Gundam drawn by Hisashi in 2005 was sold in the Christie's auction held in Hong Kong with a price of US$600,000.
On May 24 2008, the painting Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas by Claude Monet was sold for a price of $80.4 million, the highest price ever for a Monet.
The educational arm of Christie's auction house is called Christie's Education
. It has colleges in London and New York accredited by the University of Glasgow
in the UK
and the New York Board of Regents
in the USA
. It offers Master's Degrees, Graduate Diplomas and an Undergraduate Degree. Courses include: Arts of China; Early European Art (Antiquity, Middle Ages and Renaissance); Fine and Decorative Arts (fifteenth century to moderism); Modern and Contemporary Art; Modern Art, Connoisseurship and the History of the Art Market and American Folk Art as well as certificate programmes and continuing education classes.
is the picture library for the auction house and has an archive of several million fine and decorative art images representing items sold in its sale rooms around the world. With offices in New York and London, images are available for reproduction.
With Bonhams, Christie's is a shareholder in the London-based Art Loss Register, a privately-owned database used by law enforcement services worldwide to trace and recover stolen art.
- J. Herbert, Inside Christie’s, London, 1990.
- P.A. Colson, The Story of Christie's, London, 1950.
- H.C. Marillier, Christie's, 1766-1925, London, 1926.
- W. Roberts, Memorials of Christie's, 2 vols, London, 1897