Christie's Shuts Offices in Boston, Palm Beach, Philadelphia

  • Auction house to increase investment in West Coast, Midwest
  • Sotheby's shed some staff last year as art market slows

Christie’s, the world’s biggest auction house by revenue, said it’s shutting down offices in Boston, Philadelphia and Palm Beach, Florida.

Clients in these regions will be served from the New York office, a spokeswoman for the auction house said in an e-mailed statement on April 5. Christie’s plans to expand investment in the West Coast, the Midwest and Southwest regions, she said.

Auction houses are preparing for a slowdown in the art market, with upcoming bellwether sales of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art expected to be smaller than last year. The job cuts and restructuring at Christie’s follows similar steps at Sotheby’s, which eliminated 5 percent of its staff through buyouts offered in November. Christie’s said seven people will be affected by the office shutdowns but some may stay on as consultants.

“As part of our regular business practice, Christie’s continually evaluates its existing business strategy and growth plans to ensure proper alignment to optimize our engagement with new and existing clients,” the spokeswoman said.

Christie’s had 11 regional offices in the U.S., including the three that are being shut, according to its website.

Christie’s in January reported a 5 percent decline in annual sales following five straight years of growth, a sign that the art market may be slowing during a time of stock market volatility and greater selectivity by wealthy buyers. Christie’s announced last year that it would eliminate some stand-alone auctions, combining them into larger thematic sales.

Since the financial crisis Sotheby’s has been trimming consultants in some regional offices and closed its location in Boston, the company’s spokesperson said. Sotheby’s has also been beefing up its presence on the West Coast, where consignments increased 71 percent from 2013 to 2015, by moving to bigger locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

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