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The History of Christie’s Auction House

James Christie held his first sale in London, England on December 5, 1766 and its earliest catalog dates back to that same year. From 1973 through 1999, Christie’s was a public company until it was purchased by a private owner, Francois Pinault. In 1987, Christie’s auctioned off the Bugatti Royale automobile for a world record price. In 1999, Christie’s New York sold a strand of 41 natural graduated pearls for $1,476,000 dollars. In 2000, questions about price fixing between Christie’s and Sotheby’s surfaced. Christie’s was fined $512 million dollars in a civil law suit and two Sotheby’s employees were given jail or in home sentences with a large fine as well. In 2001, Elton John gave 20 of his cars to Christies to auction since he was out of the country so often and was unable to drive his cars. The sale included a 1993 Jaguar, “several Farraris, Rolls Royces and Bentley’s”. In 2006, Audrey Hepburn’s black dress from the film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s was sold at Christie’s South Kensington. On December 8, 2008, Pinault’s debts made him consider the sale of Christie’s. Several equity groups were interested in the purchase. In January 2009, Christie’s reported that although they employed 2100 people world-wide, they would have to lay-off 300 people because of the world-wide downturn in the art market. With sales of $248.8 million dollars and sales of $739 million the year before, Christie’s let go another group of employees after May 2009. In September 2010, Steven Pleshette Murphy became the first CEO in the auction house’s history. Christie’s has sold artwork and personal items of “Pablo Picasso; Rembrandt; Diana, Princess of Wales; Leonardo de Vinci; Vincent van Gogh; Napolean Bonaparte; Marilyn Monroe and others”.

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