Christie’s Mobile Bidding: Ebay for the Luxury Consumer?

Isaac Mostovicz writes that that auction house Christie's has show insight in working towards mobile real-time bidding ...
Luxury auction house Christie’s has released a mobile application for Android, as well as updating its iPhone application in a series of steps towards real-time bidding on mobiles, according to a Luxury Daily article.
Christie's Mobile Auction application

Christie's Mobile Auction application (Luxury Daily)

Christie’s has developed these platforms in a bid to “increase brand awareness among younger generations and become more accessible to its current consumers”.
The Christie’s Digital Media Director said:
“Really the goal behind this is first, to enable our existing client base who are primarily on the move with a platform that allows them to experience Christie’s offerings on-the-go. The second is to introduce our brand to a new population with whom Christie’s is out of reach or not understood by. We think mobile is a good way for Christie’s to bring the brand to light for a younger generation with which I feel we are a bit out of touch with.”
The application will allow customers to search upcoming auctions and flag their favourites, receiving alerts nearer the time, as well as allowing them to register for auctions, place absentee bids and view real-time bidding prices throughout the auction. Although customers cannot yet bid in real time through their mobiles, that is the end goal.
Since Christie’s launched its Christie’s Live real-time bidding site in 2006, it has attracted 25,000 registrants, over half of whom were new customers.
With mobile internet looking set to take over desktop internet by 2014, the number of consumers shopping over their devices is set to increase, and brands who do not embrace the opportunities offered by mobile technology may well find themselves missing out. Christie’s has shown insight into where its strengths – a strong brand and offering – and weaknesses – being out of touch with a younger generation of consumers – are, and are developing their strategy to leverage these insights.
It will be interesting to see what happens if and when Christie’s finally launches real-time bidding through mobile, and how many will be enticed by the thought of paying big money for luxury items whilst on the go.
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Dubai makes its comeback

Isaac Mostovicz writes that the recession blues is over for Dubai, where the luxury market is back in full swing...

The luxury market is showing further resilience, and contradiction, from the economic crises spanning the world. In the Middle East, amongst high unemployment and rising food prices, one city is displaying a resurgence in its luxury retail sector.

Dubai was not immune to the financial crisis, and retailers reported a 45% decrease in sales in 2009, but thanks to demand by wealthy Emiratis and tourists from Russia, China and India, business activity in the UAE private sector hit an 18-month high in January 2011.  Back to indulge in their luxury delicacies, Dubai is back on track to regain its position as the second most attractive city in the world for retailers.

Chocopologie is one of the retailers that is ready to get Dubai back on the up. The chocolatier claims to sell the world’s most expensive truffle “La Madeline au Truffe”, selling for $272 a piece. Other truffles include the Antoinette, a dark chocolate heart dipped in white chocolate and French rose water.

Other products making a comeback include Dior mobile phones in a jeweled finish, and calf-skin leather bags, both from Dubai’s Rivoli Group, and platinum Breguet Double Tourbillion Classique Grand Complication watches, priced at over $440,000 apiece.  Auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s are also wanting a slice of the pie in Dubai, where they have seen some of the biggest sales.

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Is luxury jewelry recession-proof?

Isaac Mostovicz writes that the luxury diamond industry's ability to market for greater exclusivity may make it 'recession-proof'...

If the the 39-carat diamond auctioned by Christie’s recently, which went for $5.4 million, is any indication, then the luxury jewelry industry may be bouncing back quicker than other industries.

However the New York Times is suggesting something greater: that the entire luxury jewelry industry may, in fact, be recession–proof. Mark Dunhill, chief executive officer of Fabergé, is quoted:

“During times of economic uncertainly real luxury comes back,” Mr. Dunhill said. At the same time, however, “there is a tendency to approach special purchases in a more discerning and discreet manner.”

Jean-Christophe Bédos, Boucheron’s chief executive calls the new approach ‘Beyond Luxury’: “[A] unique expression of excellence in design and craftsmanship.”

What Mr. Dunhill calls “real luxury” are the kinds of things that Lambda personalities prefer — the truly exclusive products and experiences that bestow status.

This is consistent with what some in the luxe industry are calling a return to the roots of luxe. I wrote previously that it’s possible the only way back for the luxe industry is to go exclusive. Not all agree, however it will become a strategy for some brands going forward.

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Christie’s 39-carat diamond nets $5.4M price tag

Isaac Mostovicz writes that Christie's 39-carat diamond auction could set the pace for the diamond industry's recovery ...


Last week Christie’s Auction House put up for auction a 39-carat diamond. It was part of  the “Magnificent Jewels from a Distinguished Private Collector” auction.

Later this week Sotheby’s will auction a 29-carat flawless diamond. I wrote previously how that could set the tone for how the diamond industry picks itself up and carries on, post-recession. However it seems Christie’s has already solved that.

Rahul Kadakia, head of jewelry at Christie’s New York is quoted in National Jeweler saying that the Christie’s sale is indicative of an industry recovering quickly.

“The diamond market continues to show remarkable strength despite the volatility of the financial world … Just two weeks after a very strong sale of jewels at Christie’s Hong Kong–where a 5-carat pink diamond went for $10.8 million–the exceptional Evening Star Golconda diamond of 39 carats sold at Christie’s New York for $5.4 million. It was a fitting grand finale to a year that saw over $100 million in jewels change hands under our gavels in the U.S.”

We could be seeing a strong resurgence in the diamond industry, most notably at auction houses. If a 39-carat stone nets $5.4M, then one could hazard to guess that Sotheby’s 29-carat stone will net around $3.5. However reports currently have it pegged at going for $1.8 million to $2.2 million.

Regardless, it appears the Lambda personalities are out in force in the diamond market, ready to pay top prices for the most exclusive diamonds available to be bought.

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Optimistic Results For London Art Auctions

Isaac Mostovicz writes that contemporary art auction results are pleasing...


Following up on my previous post covering the Contemporary Art Auctions that took place in London in June, I can happily note that positive predictions proved accurate. Despite several pessimistic estimates by market pundits, outcomes are above expectations.

Prestigious auction house Sotheby’s sold 37 out of 40 lots for a total of £25,549,450 (almost $42 million). This is 92.5 per cent sold, a sell-through percentage which, according to Sotheby’s contemporary art expert Cheyenne Westphal, is “one of the highest ever”. The auction’s top price came for Andy Warhol’s Tunafish Disaster, which sold for £3,737,250 ($ 6.1 million). Ten of the lots at the auction sold for over $1 million.

At Christie’s 35 out of 40, or 88 per cent, of lots were sold for a total of £31,063,350 ($31,778,604). This minimal failure rate of 12 per cent compares with the auction house’s best performances, when the market was on its height. Peter Doig’s Night Playground went for £3,009,250 (ca $5 million), fetching the highest ever action price for the artist.

Phillips De Pury & Company sold 30 out of 39, or 77 per cent, of their lots for a total of 7,396,700. It set the sales record for an astonishing 18 artists including Jack Goldstein and Ashley Bickerton.

However, despite these delightful outcomes, sales results of auctions are still substantially below what contemporary art auctions achieved when the art boom was at its height.

As one could expect, this is not necessarily the fault of bidders, but largely due to consignors, who are unwilling to sell high-profile, high-value pieces in a weak market. Auction houses have also shown an unusual unwillingness to guarantee sellers minimum prices on lots.

Considering this, as well the current financial climate, bidders were impressively keen, chasing artists rarely or even never seen at auction. Art advisor Wendy Goldsmith, quoted at, said that buyers “now focus on the available material. The market has stabilized. From now on things will improve”.

Photo by Ehsan Khakbaz

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Art auction shows uniqueness is a unique selling point

Isaac Mostovicz writes that those who can afford true luxury will continue to seek it in today’s economic climate...

Earlier this week, Pierre Bergé, partner of the late Yves Saint Laurent, put the pair’s large collection of art up for auction at Christie’s. The results were stunning in today’s economic climate–the works took in $264 million. It’s a good reminder that despite the recession, there are still plenty of wealthy people willing to spend on rare things that they interpret as truly luxurious. The Matisse paintings fetched a great deal in particular, because, as the New York Times notes

Few Matisse paintings of quality come on the market, and each of the three Matisse paintings did better than its estimates.

A Picasso was pulled from the auction when bidding stopped at 21 million euros, less than the 25-30 million euro range expected. Said Isabelle de Wavrin, deputy editor of BeauxArts magazine:

Picassos are not rare. But everyone is looking for a good Matisse.

Those who can afford true luxury will continue to seek it in today’s economic climate–luxury is what makes us human. Those who sell luxury need to ensure that what they’re offering is truly unique.

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Using Diamonds to Lure Real Estate Buyers

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

The New York real estate market has been hit hard by the credit crunch, experiencing a dramatic downturn in sales, to such an extent that realtors are turning to extreme and unusual methods to attract buyers for their homes.

Hall F. Willkie, president of Brown Harris Stevens, is holding a number of sophisticated events at his new residential developments to lure in the luxury buyer. He accepts that with slow markets there is a call for price cuts but still feels that there is a place for unique events. Recently, the firm has tried exhibiting a range of expensive jewellery, with a diamond expert on hand to offer advice. He has also joined forces with Christie’s, to hold a preview for an auction of modern South Asian art in their luxury apartments.

A different approach to securing a buyer could be offering one’s house as first prize in a raffle. This is indeed what Tim and Zoë Bawtree are in the process of doing. After the £850,000 house, which featured on Grand Designs, failed to sell through traditional methods, they dreamt up the contest in a bid to beat the housing slump. Each ticket has gone on sale for £25; however there is a catch – the three-bedroom “eco-home” home will only be given away if at least 40,000 tickets are sold. This is to cover the costs of stamp duty, furnishings and a donation to Cancer Research as well as the value of the house.

However, Michele Kleier, president of Gumley Haft Kleier, believes that the luxury buyer will not be seduced by gimmicky special events, calling it ‘a waste of time’.

“Nobody who’s spending $13 million on an apartment cares about your free vacation to Disney World or Chocolate tasting with five different chocolatiers. If you need a gimmick to get me in, there’s something wrong with this apartment”.

Only time will tell whether the gimmicks will lure and secure luxury house buyers, but in a period when the housing market has reached an all-time low, it might be worth staging fashion shows, art exhibtions and book signings to get the prospective buyer in.

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Modernist Luxury in the Housing Market

Isaac Mostovicz writes...


A mid-century modernist house in the desert of southern California, outside Palm Springs, will go on auction next spring as part of an art auction through Christie’s on postwar and contemporary art.  It has a listing estimate of $15 to $25 million.

As prices in the art market have surged over the last few years, the idea that classic architecture (in this case, a design by Richard Neutra) is a form of high art is creating new opportunities in the luxury art market.

The home was bought about 15 years ago and had been advertised as a tear-down, according to a recent article in the New York Times.  After an exhaustive restoration, the home now has been restored to its original condition.

The huge range in the pre-sale estimate indicates that certain buyers might be willing to pay much more for a home with such a pedigree and shows the way that luxury retailing is making its way through every sector of the economy.  It also indicates that the preservation of classic architecture might be served well not only by public interest bodies but by private enthusiasts with the money to spend.

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A high price for connoisseurship?

Isaac Mostovicz writes...


Is it connoisseurship when people overpay? Shouldn’t they know better? Or are they just putting their appreciation of the object they’re buying above all else?

I pose these questions after Sotheby’s and Christie’s held fine art auctions this week. Souren Melikian posits in yesterday’s IHT that the link between the price paid for items and the artistic achievement displayed was tenuous at best. Sure, these were one of a kind pieces from some of the masters—but if nothing else bidders were inconsistent. At Sotheby’s, a Cezanne watercolor went for an “unthinkable” $25.5 million, but was quickly followed by sketches that went for a “modest” $2.28 million and an “absurdly low” 1.27 million.

Melikian acknowledges that it is difficult to tell what the price of a very rare work of art should be, but two paintings that were certainly worthy, a “breathtaking masterpiece” by Maurice de Vlaminck and a “beautiful” painting by early Impressionist Eva Gonzales, found zero bids.

Of course the bidders were paying what they thought was a fair price for the art—but if the art lacked the quality and aesthetics expected for how much was paid (at least in the opinion of the IHT reporter)—can we consider the buyers to be connoisseurs? Maybe. Beauty remains in the eye of the beholder / holder of wealth.

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