Deepanjana Klein of Christie’s on how the art world is adapting to the Covid-19 crisis
"We have already made significant changes to our digital offering and this will continue, with more online sales scheduled"
No industry is spared the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Around the world, companies are transitioning to digital workplaces and trying to evovle in the best way possible. The International Head of Department for Contemporary Indian and Southeast Asian Art at Christie’s in New York, Deepanjana Klein tells ELLE how the global art world is dealing with with the current crisis.
ELLE: What’s the impact of the current Covid-19 crisis on the art world, the business and economies?
Deepanjana Klein: Health remains our number one priority. We have voluntarily paused all saleroom auctions and public exhibitions as a precaution across our regions and have closed offices. Over 1,500 employees have shifted to remote-working successfully. We have adapted quickly to new platforms; have changed ways of working, shifted meetings to keep the spirit of the company going. We are still hoping to deliver our June sales, including the NY 20th Century Week but we will need to assess the situation in a few weeks.
The situation in Asia is more stable than in other regions, but travel is disrupted. Our consignors are being very adaptable and supportive. We have some strong consignments, and this week, we announced the most prestigious single-owner collection of Patek Philippe Watches to be offered in Asia. We are also focusing on our online sales including Pavilion, Jewellery and Contemporary Asian Art, in the interim months before our live season, hopefully, in July. All this said, it is a challenging time and, as with all businesses, we are adapting as the situation evolves.
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ELLE: How are the various stakeholders dealing with the crisis?
DK: Our Business Continuity right now means going digital and our teams are focusing on online-only sales and private sales. Alongside the existing calendar of online sales we now have added a significant number of new sales to the program. Christie’s has hosted online sales for nearly a decade since 2011—it’s a trusted platform and over $270 million in 2019 was transacted through—online sales, online absentee and LIVE bidding. It is worth noting that 64% of all our global clients bought or bid online in 2019. And, our pure online sales continue to recruit the largest number of new buyers—41%. In our private sales department there has been a high volume of transactions (especially across 3 weeks), with the number of sales in this first quarter up by 27%.
We have also amplified many new digital marketing enhancements to aid with collector engagement, browsing and buying. Our clients are showing understanding and flexibility and demand is still there, across all categories and regions. Underpinning all our discussions is the safety of our communities and our people, which remains our priority.
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ELLE: How do you plan to emerge from this crisis, what’s the next step?
DK: We are looking at the positives and opportunities—a chance to re-centre our business and accelerate innovation. We have already made significant changes to our digital offering and this will continue, with more online sales scheduled and more to come. The art world and the whole world will be different once this time has passed and we will make sure that Christie’s is ready, demonstrating our capability and flexibility. The world has changed and we are learning every day.