July 12, 2006

Going, Going … Click. Christie’s Auctions Come Online

LONDON -- Art collectors will now be able to taste the drama of the auction room from the comfort of their homes and bid for fine art with the click of a mouse, Christie's said on Wednesday.

The auctioneer has teamed up with online bidding company Auction Management Solutions, from Tampa, Florida, to develop technology that provides real-time video and sound from sales rooms and aims to tap a new generation of clients.

"Christie's LIVE will allow us to bring to an unlimited online audience the finest property, and those bidders will be able to participate in real-time in the excitement of the live sale room," Edward Dolman, Christie's Chief Executive Officer, said in a statement.

Christie's joins a long list of online auctioneers of art and antiques, including eBay, iCollector.com and Artnet.com.

Its main rival Sotheby's announced a joint venture with online retailer auctioneer Amazon.com Inc IN 1999, but that initiative has since been abandoned.

A Sotheby's spokeswoman said the company did take bids at four collectibles sales each year via eBay.

"This is the first time there is live interactive bidding in the sale room," a Christie's spokeswoman said. "Smaller auction houses have tried to do similar things, but that was with sound only."

When asked why it had taken Christie's so long to sell art over the Internet, she added:

"This is in time for broadband. Our clients have to have the technology to bid, and with broadband broadly available, we recommend clients have this."

Clients will be able to use the new system at selected sales over the coming months, including an auction of Star Trek memorabilia due to be held in October.