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de Kooning sells at Christies.com

de Kooning sells at Christies.com

 

It’s 1766. In Great Britain, the colonies of America are just starting to act up and a man named James Christie holds a sale from his Great Rooms in Pall Mall, his first permanent auction rooms, on 5 December. The sale includes two chamber pots, a pair of sheets, two pillowcases and four irons. Revenue from the sale was unrecorded. Fast forward through a couple of centuries. It’s 2009. The same company Christie started in 1766 sells Pablo Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” from the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody for a record $106,482,500.

That’s a lot of time, money and names like Vincent van Gogh, Willem de Kooning, Elizabeth Taylor and Andrew Wyeth. And it would arguably be easy for a brand like Christie’s to live on a secretive, uber-wealthy reputation. But the brand has not done that. The auction and fine art sales company has embraced digital marketing, commerce and especially content to increase sales and blow the dust off its image.

“We constantly discuss the importance of price and rarity for our audience and balance that with the need for people to interact with us and our products on many different levels,” says digital editorial director Kristen Schultz Dollard. “We have a lot of different new customers who are spending $3,000 to $7,000 on high-end bar ware and humidors and other goods, and we also have the people looking for objects like a vintage Rolex and or a de Kooning. At the end of the day, it’s not Christie’s they interact with, it’s those brands. We want to talk about what’s interesting and relevant about the objects and works. We have a passionate, elite group and we want to extend our authenticity through content.”

From a commerce and access standpoint, Christie’s customers can bid online, buy online and also access goods via mobile app. In fact, Christie’s auctioned Edward Hopper’s “October on Cape Cod” last fall for $9.6 million to an online bidder using Christie’s Live. However, the content strategy has put the Christie’s brand in a position to educate all levels of customer’s all customer segments to its history and the world of fine art. The Picasso sale has an accompanying video. It’s A “Gentlemen’s Luxury Accessories” capsule collection covers James Bond, Richard Branson’s favorite bar in Necker Island and both James Bond’s martini and Ernest Hemingway’s initial “legendary” Bloody Mary recipe from Paris’ Harry’s Bar.

Potential users and even customers who want to learn about art can watch live auctions, check out a podcast on modern art, and learn about art history almost as much as they will learn about Christie’s.

“The new luxury has more to do with how you allocate money than how much money you have,” Dollard says. “Our content builds awareness and actually drives people to buy. It’s not like you can say ‘here’s where the qualified buyers are.’ But we can now see how many customers came from social platforms and content we host with partners like editorial coverage like we recently did with a series of vintage postcards paying homage to de Kooning’s 1950’s Hamptons era that ran on Vanity Fair.”

At the high-end there’s simply not a lot of competition for Christie’s. Sotheby’s to an extent. After a run at high-end goods auctions in the mid-90s eBay has backed off. Dollard sees her competition in companies that actually haven’t been started. Her content strategy envisions creative competition.

“We have a lot of respect for high-end companies like Net-A-Porter and we do feel competitive with smaller companies in the digital space,” she says. “But I compete against the people in Brooklyn that haven’t even launched anything but have the coolest idea. We focus right now on our ability to provide the best content and the most knowledge. At Christie’s if you want a signed copy of the first edition of “The Sun Also Rises” we might not have it in stock. But we know exactly where to find one.”

 

 

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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