Christie’s Has Updated Its Auction Categories to 20th and 21st Century

The switch indicates a huge shift in how works of art are described and sold.

Christie’s new auction categories represent a shift in how art is identified. Christie's

Auction houses have received incredible shakeups recently: Christie’s, in its first recent sale of NFT art, managed to make a sale of $69,346,250 for Beeple’s “Everydays – The First 500 Days,” and in general, auction houses have been experiencing quantum shifts while trying adjust to the digital-only restrictions necessitated by the pandemic. Given these huge shifts in not-so-little time, it makes sense that major auction houses would be rethinking how they go about things, and that’s exactly what Christie’s appears to be doing. This week, it became clear that for Christie’s upcoming May auctions, big changes would be in place: what Christie’s formally referred to as “Impressionist and Modern” and “Post-War and Contemporary” auctions will now fall under the categories “20th Century Art” and “21st Century Art.”

This indicates a huge shift in the way art is spoken about and characterized, especially if other auction houses follow Christie’s lead and abandon the categories of “Impressionist and Modern” and “Post-War and Contemporary.” While Sotheby’s didn’t immediately return Observer’s request for comment, it’s clear that other auction houses will certainly be intrigued by the change. The Christie’s way of doing things may sound like it’s lumping a bunch of disparate styles together, but looked at another way, the name change comes off as clean and stylistic in that it indicates a Before and After.

“At Christie’s, we are embracing the spirit of evolution and revolution, and shifting the way we present the art of the 20th and 21st Centuries to reflect a new day,” Alexander Rotter, the now-chairman of 20th & 21st Century Art at Christie’s, said in a statement. “This time of upheaval has had an enormous impact on the art world. It has impacted the nature of art that is being created today and has altered our understanding on the art of the past. This new format allows us to bring our new found perspective forward to the market in an exciting and dynamic way.”

Christie’s Has Updated Its Auction Categories to 20th and 21st Century