We’ve just had one of those “they said it couldn’t be done moments”. You know what I mean: manned flight, landing on the moon, Leicester City winning the FA Cup (ok, that still hasn’t happened, but they won the Premiership), a British player winning the Men’s tournament at Wimbledon…
In our world, the moment came on June 29 when Sotheby’s launched what was, to all intents and purposes, a TV gameshow format for selling the world’s top-end art. OK, so the most expensive piece at $73 million, a work by the late Francis Bacon, sold on the phone, but the $300 million plus result for the 74 lots on offer was final proof positive that internet sales are not just for the cheaper end of the market.
It may still be a while until they bring the hammer down on an internet bid of $50 million or more, but it can now only be a matter of time after the world’s leading art collectors showed themselves only too willing to take part in this ground-breaking experiment.
This doesn’t mean the end of the live sale in its entirety – too much history and excitement is tied up with that – but it does mean that auctions have entered a new era. It may have taken the pandemic to accelerate this process, but now we’ve seen it in all its glory, it’s here to stay.
It’s a bittersweet experience for people, like me, who have spent so many years performing to a live audience from the rostrum.