Christie's Merging Imp / Mod Departments

June 29 2020

Image of Christie's Merging Imp / Mod Departments

Picture: Christie's via. The New York Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News broke last week that the auction house Christie's will be merging its Impressionist and Post-War and Contemporary Art departments. This 'hybrid' sector will be known as '20/21', short for 20th / 21st century art.

The auction house has cited a few reasons for the shake-up. By far the most interesting reason is the following:

“Our clients don’t think in categories anymore,” [Christie's CEO Guillaume Cerutti] said. “It’s not only about restructuring and reorganizing, it’s because we truly believe there is a continuum in these three parts. I believe that contemporary art has roots in the beginning of the 20th century and that without Monet and Duchamp, we would not be able to understand today’s contemporary art.”

Press reports have also drawn attention to the tough economic conditions experienced by the auction house which may result in job losses. Also cited is the growing dominance of Post-war and Contemporary Art and the 'shrinking' Impressionist market.

It is considered by some to be rather old fashioned to think of art in categories these days. In this respect, perhaps the auction house are following the demands of the market. However imperfect the categorisation system may be, it is surprising that an auction house is risking loosing expertise built over many decades in such a crucial specialist department. Such valuable knowledge is so easily lost and can prove crucial in determining areas such as attribution, skilled forgeries and murky provenance issues.

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