“We would be taking our prices down, I would have thought, at least 10 percent,” he said during a visit to Hong Kong. “It could be more for certain works.”
However, Dolman said that records can still be set for exceptional items in a slowed market and that lower estimates do not represent an across-the-board devaluation of art. “You can’t just go and say ‘Right, we are going to take 20 percent off everything.’ It doesn’t work like that,” he said.
“It’s difficult to sit here and say the market is 15 percent down, 20 percent down. [But] it’s definitely down. There’s no question about that.”
Christie’s also announced that, like rivals Sotheby’s and Phillips de Pury & Co., it will stop giving guarantees to sellers, in order to guard against lower-than-expected sales results or being stuck with pieces that fail to sell. The house has given approximately $800 million in guarantees this year, or about 15 percent more than in 2007, according to Dolman, who would not comment on the house’s resulting losses.
“It’s not our intention to offer any guarantees until we have a better idea of where the markets are,” he said. “We are not in the same market that we were in six months ago.”
He added that the house could break its no-guarantees rule if something “truly exceptional” comes along.
Although Christie’s will report “negative growth” in sales this year, its first negative report in about seven years, Dolman said that the current art-market slump pales in comparison with the one triggered in the 1980s by the collapse of the Japanese economy.