Attending Sotheby's & Christie's Art Auctions- COOLEST, fun, free thing to do in nyc!
December has been a whirlwind this year. It's the best time of year to visit NYC for sure. Yes it’s freezing but all the decorations are beyond magical and you truly feel like you’re in a movie walking around the city (even more so than usual). One thought that I cant seem to shake is that it feels like the city gets more and more crowded every year at Christmas time. Rockefeller Center on any Saturday night or Saturday day is absolute chaos. Maybe it’s partially because of the new FAO Schwartz pop-up store they have there this year, or the fact that every year they seem to put up more and more barricades; whatever it is I highly recommend visiting over not just a weekend but also including some weekdays in to your visit. If you’re like me and have seen New York at Christmas many times and have done all of the touristy things years ago, you might be looking to do something a little more off the beaten path this winter. If you’re an art lover like myself the museums are always amazing of course but again, extremely crowded in December. They can get pricey, and since you’ve paid good money to get in to them you want to get your money’s-worth and see as much as you can. In other words, it’s an all-day event. It can be exhausting. As some of you might know, my first real job out of college was working for an art gallery that did art auctions all over the US and on-board different cruise ship lines. It was a very exciting and fun first job out of college and fostered my creative side and love for art. After years of working for this gallery and auction house and experiencing the excitement of it, I imagined how awesome it would be to be a part of Sotheby's or Christie's auction house teams. The gallery I worked for had some high-end pieces but the majority of artists they carried were not house-hold names or posthumous artists. Sotheby's & Christie's represented the pinnacle of this field being the oldest and most well known auction houses in the world. I had seen clips and live streams of Sotheby's and Christie's auctions online throughout the years and I remember wondering "huh, I wonder if anyone can attend one of these auctions in person at one of their locations. I wonder if they are 'open to the public'". Well after a quick google search to refresh my memory, I was reminded that they are not only open to the public, but they are free! They are of course held inside their beautiful state of the art locations here in New York City, Sotheby's on the upper east side and Christie's right at Rockefeller Center. This is a VERY COOL, fun, FREE, thing to do in New York City! It's also a WARM thing to do in the winter months (indoors), and these auctions are NOT over-crowded like the museums can be. You also dont feel obligated to stay there all day since you didn't pay anything to get in. Even though i knew for sure already that this would be a grand-slam fun thing to do in the city, I had to test out my theory to confirm. We first went to Sothebys. There are a few tips/pointers i should mention: 1-the free auctions that are open to the public do occur during certain week days in the morning or afternoon. The evening sales are ticketed (not free) and you have to purchase tickets on their website in advance. 2-The works that will be up for auction are available to view in person in their galleries the week or two prior/leading up to the auction date and this is of course also free at all times during their business hours to view. This is REALLY cool to be able to get up close and personal to these amazing works of art without a ton of other people crowding you like you often experience at museums. Also, they have beautiful photos of all of these works of art that will be up for auction online. So you can familiarize yourself with the whole collection ahead of time and see what the estimates for each piece are and the provenance of each item. This is SO COOL to me! Dont get me wrong, i know the whole point of a museum is to go and experience amazing, important, and historic works of art in person, but there is something SO AWESOME about being able to see perfect quality images of these amazing works of art online. it's like a virtual museum! but of course also with the option of going to see these amazing works of art in person. I kind of wish museums would do this! Have all of their works of art up online too. i feel like you could learn more and soak more in that way instead of having to walk a whole museum physically and try to cram all of that history and information in to your brain all in one day. Just another awesome thing about visiting these galleries! Ill provide some pictures below of my experience at each auction house and then continue on with some pros and cons of each (Sotheby's vs Christie's).
|Sotheby's; the scene up close|
|Sotheby's, the scene further back|
|Christie's, a rare Frank Lloyd Wright urn, phone bidder on the left|
|Christie's, the urn sold for $576,500|
|the sheep pictured in front of the podium sold for $1 million|
Both auctions were awesome to go to. My experience at each was different for a couple of different reasons. The Sotheby's art auction i attended was titled "Lady Blue Eyes: Property of Barbara & Frank Sinatra". it was really cool at this one to see the actual artwork that surrounded thee Frank Sinatra and his wife for the last 22 years or more. I LOVE Frank Sinatra and his music so being in the same room with these works of art was so cool! The Sotheby's gallery itself was under renovation so the vibe was a little different on each of their floors for this reason. Overall a nice space and I am looking forward to going back once the renovation is completely done. I should also mention that there was a little coffee and croissant stand in the back of sothebys where you could grab a coffee and a pastry for free i guess to sustain the bidders! obviously this is not a big deal in and of itself it was just so surprising to actually grab a coffee in nyc and be told that it was free-haha!! Only downside i would say is that their location in the city is on the upper east side which isn't really a complaint but the UES just seems a little harder to get to location-wise rather then say the upper west side or down town. I thought I would prefer Sotheby's over Christie's, but it actually ended up being the other way around. Although no free coffee and pastries ;) the Christie's gallery itself is absolutely gorgeous. Each floor is so well organized and "user-friendly". the Sotheby's gallery did seem a little un-user friendly and confusing/chaotic, kind of hard to navigate but that could have been due to the renovations happening. Christie's was laid out like a dream on the inside, not to mention the location of the actual gallery/auction house is PRIME--right in the center of midtown at Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller Center is one of my favorites places to go to in the city and i really dont need another excuse to go there, but looks like i've just added one. The auction itself was so exciting. It was SO fun seeing the Frank Lloyd Wright urn pictured above get bid up to half a million dollars right before my eyes. there's nothing more exciting!!! Even better, the competing bidder was standing right next to me in the auction, so cool :) I love the dark wood paneling of their auction room here, and of course it's always more fun to hear things auctioned off by someone with a british accent vs an american one ;) One thing that i think made the Christie's auction more exciting was just the sheer volume of sales that was done in the short time that i was there. This isn't necessarily fair to Sotheby's since i'm sure they have larger sales as well then the auction i happened to attend. In any case, you can research the auctions ahead of time and see which ones interest you here for Christie's: https://www.christies.com/Calendar and here: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions.html for Sotheby's. Another random bonus of attending this Christie's auction which i have to include here was the fact that this was the ONLY time in the probably a dozen times of seeing the FAO Schwartz pop-up store at Rock Center that there wasnt a massive line around the entire building just to get in! There was no line at all so you know i took advantage of that and went in there! it was truly so cool!!!! everyone goes in there including myself to see the re-created giant piano from BIG with Tom Hanks that plays music as you step on the keys--so fun!!! here are some up close pics of what it looked like and i LOVE that the backdrop of the piano are the classic rock center holiday flags and the famous christmas tree.