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Sotheby's to stream live auctions in June
[NEW YORK] Sotheby's auctioneer Oliver Barker will be live, by video, in London, looking at screens showing his associates live in New York, Hong Kong and elsewhere, who will be on the phone with live bidders all over the world.
It's a far cry from the buzzing salesroom in Manhattan, New York, where hundreds of collectors, dealers, art advisers and spectators typically hobnob over Champagne before sitting side by side to raise their paddles in nail-biting battles for great works of art.
But this digitally streamed live auction next month will allow Sotheby's to proceed with its big-ticket biannual art sale that was supposed to take place in May but was delayed by the coronavirus outbreak.
On Friday in a conference call, Sotheby's executives announced that the first sale, of contemporary art, would be June 29, immediately followed by its impressionist and modern art evening sale.
The auctions will be livestreamed in high-definition, each lot accompanied by an on-screen image. Bidders can participate by phone or online. Mr Barker will take bids from Sotheby's specialists on the phone banks in New York, London and Hong Kong with the results broadcast to screens in a control center studio setup.
"It's definitely a first," Mr Barker said in the conference call. "This will be the first time that I have taken to the rostrum in London in order to conduct a New York sale."
Works can be viewed online and by appointment beginning June 8 at Sotheby's Manhattan galleries.
Hong Kong sales, which were postponed from April, will take place as usual July 5-11, with the auctioneers live and bidders expected in the salesroom, given that restrictions have been lifted. While protests have resumed there, Patti Wong, the chairwoman of Sotheby's Asia, said this "hasn't deterred clients from bidding."
At the top of the New York lineup June 29 is Francis Bacon's 1981 three-part oil painting, "Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus," which is estimated to sell for at least US$60 million. The work has been guaranteed by Sotheby's, meaning the auction house has already secured a bid. Still, given the demand for Bacon, there is likely to be competition for the painting, which would lift the price over the estimate.