Christie’s is an art business and a fine art auction house established in 1766 by James Christie.
James Christie held his first sale on 5th December 1766 in Pall Mall, London. The sale included 2 chamber pots, a pair of sheets, 2 pillowcases and 4 irons.
Within a few years Christie’s had earned itself a reputation as a leading auction house and took advantage of London’s newfound status as the major centre of international art trading.
James Christie was friends with many artists and master craftsmen including painter Thomas Gainsborough – who later painted Christie’s portrait - portraitist Joshua Reynolds and furniture maker Thomas Chippendale.
Christie’s premises in Pall Mall quickly became a gathering place for art collectors and dealers. The venue hosted the annual exhibitions of the London Royal Academy of Arts for 13 years between 1766 and 1799.
Christie’s reputation became so esteemed that in 1778 he was asked to sell Sir Robert Walpole’s art collection. This was sold to the Russian empress Catherine the Great for £40,000, a colossal figure in that time.
James Christie died in 1803 and the business was taken over by his son, James Christie II, an expert in ancient Greek sculpture and Greek pottery.
In 1823, Christie’s moved from Pall Mall to King Street, St. James where the headquarters are located to this day.
Following James Christie II’s death, his two sons, James Stirling and George Henry took over the company.
William Manson joined the firm in 1831 and Thomas Woods joined in 1859. The firm then changed its name to Christie, Manson and Woods. The last member of the Christie family to be associated with the company was James Christie IV who retired from the firm in 1889.
Christie’s headquarters suffered a direct hit during the Blitz in 1941. The firm moved to Derby House near Oxford Street and then to St James’s. The King Street office was rebuilt and the company returned there in 1953.
In 1973, Christies became a public company quoted on the London Stock Exchange and remained so until it was taken into private ownership by French industrialist François Pinault in 1999.
Christie’s has salesrooms in 9 cities across the world: Amsterdam, Dubai, Geneva, Hong Kong, Milan, New York, Paris, Zurich and two in London.
Christie's has offices in many countries across the world, including offices in Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States.
Though Christie's initially dealt in fine arts, they now have many specialist departments including ceramics, fashion and glass.
Main article: List of Christie's specialist departments
- 2008, May - Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas by Claude Monet auctioned for $80.4 million, the most expensive Monet sold at auction.
- 2006, November – Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II by Gustav Klimt auctioned for $87.9 million, the third highest price paid for a work of art at auction
- 2007 – Green Car Crash by Andy Warhol auctioned for $71.7 million, the highest price paid at auction for a post-war piece of art.
- 2010, October - Whirling Dervishes by Mahmoud Said auctioned for $2.5 million, the highest price paid for a Middle Eastern artwork at auction.
- 2010, May – Nude, Green Leaves and Bust by Pablo Picasso auctioned for $106.5 million, the most expensive piece of artwork to be sold at auction.
- 2010, November - An imperial-size bottle of Cheval Blanc 1947, a rare Bordeaux auctioned for $304,375, the highest price paid for a single bottle at auction.
- 2010, October – A Bulgari Blue Diamond ring bearing a 10.95 carat diamond was auctioned for $15,763,500 which is $1.4 million per carat, the highest price paid per carat for a blue diamond at auction.
- 2007, November – 1944 Patek Philippe wristwatch was auctioned for over $2.2 million, the highest price paid for any stainless steel watch sold at auction.
- 2010, June – a Kashmir 49.61 carat sapphire and diamond bracelet was auctioned for £4.8 million, the highest price paid for a bracelet at auction.
- 2008, December – a large Kashmir sapphire ring was auctioned for nearly $3.5 million, the highest price paid for a sapphire at auction.