How To Sell Multimillion-Dollar Art At Christie’s

How To Sell Multimillion-Dollar Art At Christie’s


John Hays: Who will give me
$275, $275, 80, say 80, 80, 80, $280, 280, now say now 290, 290, 290. Narrator: This is John Hays, an auctioneer of nearly four decades. Hays: Now $320, 320, 350, 380, 400, and 400 is that all? And sold American. That’s
a tobacco auctioneer. Narrator: John works for Christie’s. Founded in London in 1766, it’s the largest auction house in the world and now has offices in
46 different countries. But in John’s posh world of art dealings, selling to the highest bidder
sounds a bit different. Hays: An art auctioneer may say, 240, sir, thank you, sir, $240, 260, $260, at 200, 280, thank you, $280, and 300, thank you, $300, is that all? Selling then for $300, for $300, sold. Two very different approaches. Narrator: John has worked more than 500 auctions in his 36-year career, bringing in about $1 billion in sales. He’s one of 56 auctioneers
working worldwide for Christie’s. Together in 2018, they racked in $7 billion in sales. Some of the priciest sales
have included a Harry Winston Pink Legacy ring that
sold for $50.3 million, Picasso’s “Fillette à
la corbeille fleurie” for $115 million, and in November 2017, Leonardo
da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold for a record $450 million with fees. Auctioneer: $400 million is the bid, and the piece is sold. Narrator: But auctioneers
at Christie’s aren’t just smooth talkers. They’re
art experts, sales people, and performers, landing
multimillion-dollar bids with only a gavel and their voice. Hays: You’re in a theater.
You have to be able to keep people interested. You
have to keep people amused. You have to be serious in your purpose. The art of auctioneering is probably the least understood and maybe perhaps, after the art itself, is the most important factor in what
happens at Christie’s. Narrator: Becoming a Christie’s auctioneer is highly competitive. Every two years, Christie’s
holds an auctioneering school. Up to 40 applicants are accepted, but only two or three will move on to private instruction afterwards. Hays: I did the Christie’s
program in London and got my master’s
certificate there, and then I did every internship known
to man in the art world. I knocked on Christie’s’
door 36 years ago, and they hired me in the American department in October of 1983. Narrator: Most auctioneers
have a background in art history and an area of expertise. John’s is 18th-century American art. But since he sells everything from cars to jewelry to wine, he
has to do his homework before he ever gets up
on that auction block. We caught up with John at
Christie’s in New York City before an auction of 18th-century
European decorative arts. Hays: We’re in Christie’s’ warehouse looking at a Roman micromosaic table. This object is one of the
exciting pieces that’s coming up. Micromosaic tables are a thrill to me. I like to call them Roman holidays because here you see
depictions of ancient Rome. The estimate is $50 to $80,000 dollars. Narrator: The weeks
leading up to an auction, John will visit the Christie’s warehouse to become familiar with each piece. Hays: You want to have some
understanding of the material. You want to be able to
know who the artists are. You certainly want to be able to pronounce the names correctly. Narrator: While John’s
doing his prep work, all the art is photographed
and then set up in the gallery for prospective buyers to
come check out the goods. Then on the morning of the
auction, John comes here to the bids office to go
over the auctioneer’s book. This is essentially his
bible of auction secrets. It tells him a couple things: who has already put in bids for Christie’s, the estimated sale price for each item, if the seller has set a minimum
sale price or reserve price, who will be bidding on
the phone or in person, and the general interest in each lot. But even with all this preparation, when John steps out on that podium in a Christie’s-approved colorful bow tie, anything can happen. Hays: An auctioneer puts
himself or herself out there in a way that’s very public. It’s not for everybody because
if something goes wrong, you have to have the
coolness of a airplane pilot, you have to have the humor
of a standup comedian, you also have to be serious, and this is serious stuff for many people who are depending upon the auctioneer to deliver a very high-level,
a high-quality sale. Narrator: First, a lot is introduced. Hays: Right along to lot
55, ladies and gentlemen. Narrator: A lot is an item or a group of items that are up for auction. Each lot has a number. John will read off that number and give a brief summary of the items. Hays: 55, the early George
III giltwood mirror. Narrator: Then the first
bid gets the ball rolling. Sometimes it’s on the auctioneer’s book from an absentee bidder. Hays: And we can start
the bidding here anywhere, $10,000, bid at $10,000. Narrator: John states the price to beat, who’s holding the bid, and the price needed to steal the auction item. Hays: For 10,000, 11,000, 12,000, $13,000, at $13,000, in at 13. Narrator: Typically, the
price increments go up by 10%, but it’s up to John to alter those depending on energy in the room. Bids come in over the phone, online, or, of course, by paddles peeking up from the crowd in the sale room. Sometimes this process takes hours, and John says that a
good auctioneer’s voice falls into a cadence. Hays: At 16,000 on the phone
now, 16, coming in 17,000, at the back of the room at
$17,000, 18,000 back to India. Narrator: A speaking rhythm that comfortably carries
through the entire auction. It’s on each auctioneer to develop their style and learn
to find their pacing. Hays: Christie’s does
have a very unique style. We’re selling works of art. It’s perhaps a little bit pompous from time to time, but down deep it’s the same process as auctioneering cows at
a farm or thoroughbreds. The nature of different auctions has acquired a different criteria of what the audience expects. So tobacco salesmen who will break into “and now we’ve got the third
lot, and it’s the tobacco, and here we are ladies and
gentlemen, it’s the farm,” you know, and you see
that chant going through. If they heard a Christie’s art auctioneer, I think the audience would be shocked. Sometimes I’ll break into a farm auction just for the fun of it in an audience here in New York. It
always is good for a laugh. Narrator: Whether it’s a
room full of tough Texans or New York’s art elite,
John’s goal is to ethically bring in the highest possible price. So how does he nab those sky-high bids? Hays: It’s also knowing
when to fold your tent and to drop the hammer,
so there’s two issues. If you hang in there,
and you hang in there, and you hang in there, and you wait, you’ll loose your audience,
and they’ll get angry. So it’s being able to, at the
right time, on the right lots, with the right collectors,
and the right audience, being able to go a few more bids, and in this world with
million-dollar lots, one bid could be another $100,000. So I think one wants to achieve the highest price but not overdo it. OK, I’m out. Narrator: For an hour and a half, John masterfully guides
the vibe of the saleroom. His gestures command attention. His moments of silence
hold the room in suspense. His shooting eye contact
singles out the newest bidder. But just as easily, he
can flip the energy, joking with the audience and addressing phone operators by name. Then when the moment feels right, a swift pound of the gavel
rips through the space… Hays: Sold. Narrator: Closing the sale. Just as quickly as it began,
the auction is finished: 214 lots down, 185 items sold, $3.3 million in sales.

100 thoughts on “How To Sell Multimillion-Dollar Art At Christie’s”

  1. Gamora: what did it cost?
    Me: within 21M $
    Gamora: …

    Edit: thx for the likes. It's my first meme commemt =D

  2. Ladies and gentlemen. This is how Billionaires outdo each other in terms of money.

    "This guy just bid 150M for that piece , if i do 160M , He'll have to pay more money muahahaha"

    "200M" Snickers inside

  3. I mean this was obvious but a great video and what a great production value😄. Thank you guys! That was super interesting to watch😊

  4. But can you perfectly pee into the cup they give you at urine exams to the line and nothing more, nothing less?

  5. Ohhhhhhhhh $1.00….1.00 OHHHHH do i hear $2.00……$2.00 ooohhhhh 3million do i hear 3 million. That is the most effective method jump from $2.00 to $3 million someone will bid thinking it was gonna go to $3 but they would bid the 3million and sold sold sold

  6. Confuse, exaggerate, pretend, lie and do it quick before people can realize that they’re being scammed.

  7. “Coolness of an airline pilot”
    “Humor of a stand up comedian”
    What a load of BS.
    Didn’t hear one joke and never seen an audience laugh at an auction before 😂

  8. Wait what? "500 Auctions in his 36 year career". That averages 1.15 auctions a month. Just one day of work a month?

  9. Correction required – Salvator Mundi ALLEGEDLY by Leonardo DaVinci. There are well documented issues with this painting and it may have come from DaVinci workshop or from one of his students but the master may not have painted any of it himself.

  10. Leonardo's painting sold for 450 million dollars (with fees) but in the auction they sold it for 400 million… So 50 million dollars in fees… LOL wth

  11. auctions are not always expensive , its also a great way to find bargains for example if an auction house host a major auction of furniture , art , jewelry and more ( specially online auctions ) chances are the estimate of the items does not mean it will always sell at that price sometimes the item/lot was sold ( including fees ) 15 to 60 percent less than the estimate.

  12. An auctioneer: The art of auctioneering is the least understood

    Quantum mechanics: Am I a joke to you?

  13. John: “Coolness of an airline pilot”
    “Humor of a stand-up comedian”
    Also John: no different to selling a cow

  14. Massive corruption, no conscience.
    The vast majority of high priced art sales is merely a way for rich people to dodge taxes and launder their criminally gained money.
    You could shoot any of the customers straight in the face and you´d probably have a 95% chance it´d be a giant service to humanity.

  15. Robbing christies warehouses would be a pretty amazing heist where you’ll get a huge amount of cash well huge amount of items that you’ll have to sell somehow

  16. Comments be like:
    Rich people washing money with overpriced art:
    Good for them👍
    Workers wanting a living wage:
    Oh hell no!😡😡😡

  17. He looks like he’s in a costume. Not clothes wise but his face, hair, and vibe makes be thinks he’s not real and that he’s wearing a mask and a wig.

  18. in todays auctions they sell allot of fake art, and the auction house doesnt give a shit… all they worry about is selling the piece and getting the money

  19. “I like to call them “Roman Holidays”, I see what you did there John, someone is a Audrey Hepburn fan, hahaha lol 😆😆😆😆

  20. Are these auctions just a transfer of wealth between the rich. Maybe someone wanted to take recoup some of their money? Idk. Paying ridiculous amounts for such things is crazy. A painting? Go on Google

  21. True story. My neighbor likes arts and crafts and made a bunch of bright red 1' square glossy hearts. She sold about 10 of them for $30 each to a local store that sold 'em for $50. She sold another, just like the other to a local art gallery for $300! He later sold it for $475. The purchaser might not be too happy upon seeing it for $50 in a store a few blocks away, lol.

  22. Tbh his work is kinda useless… I mean, everything could literally be done in the internet or with a singles computer.

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  24. Would like to know how much he gets paid; how his pay structure actually works…
    Simply salary?
    Paid per auction, depending on the profile of the lots?
    Percentage based somehow?
    Really intrigued.

  25. “In every problems, you need to be cool like a plane pilot, funny like a stand up comedian, and serious at the same time”

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