Monday, 30 November -0001

Sold! Inside The World’s Biggest Auction House

Christie’s lets the cameras peek behind the scenes

Written by Ben Felsenburg
Ah, the impulse buy. The little something you just can’t resist. But what if that moment of madness costs you millions of dollars? Ben-Felsenburg-colour-176

Such is the effect of Christie’s, whose story is told in Sold! Inside The World’s Biggest Auction House (BBC2, saturday, 9.10pm), in which we see a Chinese businessman casually drop in on a sale, only to find himself drawn to pay $2.8m for an abstract piece by Yves Klein that he’d never seen before in his life.

Even if you have money to spare, as this gentleman evidently has, it’s a lot of cash to pay for what is, essentially, one big rectangle of blue. On the other hand, that’s small change in the grand scheme of the auction house celebrating its 250th anniversary and letting the cameras go behind the scenes of its multi billion-pound location.

Back in 1766 when James Christie opened up his auction house – competing against 200 rivals across London – the paintings would be crowded together and fetch, at best, £100 or so. Now there’s a more extravagant theatre at the auctions in New York, Dubai and Hong Kong, and though you can understand why a king’s ransom for a monet might, if you could afford it, seem a sensible idea, the eye-watering prices for risibly pretentious modern pieces do call to mind the old adage: ‘a fool and his money are soon parted.’ Or is that just my envy talking?




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