Business Technology

Monday 19 February 2018

Christie's Elizabeth Taylor auction boosts digital bidding

An employee holds a Pablo Picasso's 'Femme au fauteuil' at Christie's auction house in London
An employee holds a Pablo Picasso's 'Femme au fauteuil' at Christie's auction house in London

Emma Barnett

NEARLY a third of Christie’s bidders are now doing so online rather than visiting the auction room.

The growth of the British institution’s online bidding community was boosted by its major sale of Dame Elizabeth Taylor’s treasures last year.

During 2011, 29pc of the auction house’s bidders pledged their money using Christie’s Live – its online bidding platform.

The sales house made history last November, becoming one of the first major auction houses to hold an online-only auction – as part of its major sale of 2,000 items belonging to the British star, who sadly passed away in 2011 after a series of health issues.

In a first for the British-founded company, which was created in 1766, more than 950 items which belonged to Dame Elizabeth, were auctioned exclusively online, without a real-life sale room bidding process. The digital auction generated £6.1m alone – and 54pc of the bidders, had never bid with Christie’s before.

Online shoppers all over the world bid for hundreds of items, including jewellery, clothes and pieces of art.

Prices started from $100 for a pair of Chanel earrings and went up to $10,000 with the most expensive item being a diamond and 18 carat white gold necklace set with 126 circular-cut diamonds.

Michael O’Neal, digital media director at Christie’s, said at the time: “The Elizabeth Taylor collection is so vast that it led us to think up solutions of how best to sell it outside of the physical auction.

The majority of the other major auction houses, such as Bonhams, have yet to start online-only auctions. However, Christie’s rival Sotheby’s has previously sold numerous pieces of art and memorabilia in online-only auctions such as a portrait by Frederic Lord Leighton and some of the belongings of Marilyn Monroe. It also trialled a partnership with eBay which it later abandoned after poor sales.

In 2011, the number of bids which went through Christie’s Live platform grew by 23 per cent. According to O'Neal, it is looking at holding further online-only auctions.

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