Despite a Hack, the Show Goes On at Christie’s

The salesroom at Christie’s was packed on Tuesday evening, as spectators rubbernecked to see if buyers would compete for multimillion-dollar artworks at an auction house still hobbled by a cyberattack.

But the audience’s chatter about hackers soon dissipated, as the auctioneer Georgina Hilton entered the spotlight. Could she succeed despite the headwinds of a slumping market and concerns about whether a cyberattack might have compromised the financial data of Christie’s clientele?

The atmosphere of the evening’s two auctions — one from the estate of the Cuban American collector Rosa de la Cruz, who died in February, and the other being Christie’s seasonal 21st-century evening art sale — indicated that the answer was yes. There were only four withdrawals ahead of the evening sales, as Christie’s salespeople worked hard to assure buyers and sellers that business would continue without a glitch.

But the numbers painted a more complicated picture.

There was a depth of bidding not seen the night before at the contemporary art sales at Sotheby’s, where out of its 52 lots, most sold on just a few bids. Still, Sotheby’s managed to outdo its rival with a total of $267 million on Monday — more than double Christie’s final result of $115 million, from a total of 57 lots, offered on Tuesday.

What happened at Christie’s was the result of withdrawals in the hours before the sale; the auction house withdrew four artworks, including a Brice Marden painting with a high estimate of $50 million. The seller had a guarantee from Christie’s for a minimum price, which means that the house now owns the painting. “The choice to withdraw the Marden was ours,” Alex Rotter, chairman of 20th- and 21st-century art at Christie’s, said at a post-sale news conference. “It wasn’t Brice’s evening, and we’re not willing to jeopardize the market of an artist like that.”

The withdrawals across both sales left their mark. The Rosa de la Cruz collection made $34.4 million, with premium fees and near its high estimate of $37 million. The 21st-century evening sale achieved $80 million, far below its estimate between $104 million to $155 million.

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