Are art auction houses the new luxury boutiques?


The Emporium is next phase illustration of Sotheby's shift to pre-owned luxury by offering a less intimidating entry point for less experienced collectors. Photo: AFP

Now you no longer have to go to Sotheby's New York auction rooms to get your hands on a Rolex or a Claire Van Vliet painting. The house helmed by Patrick Drahi has just inaugurated The Emporium, a new point of sale in New York combining art, design and luxury goods.

This new boutique, located in the Upper East Side galleries of Sotheby's, allows any buyer to acquire rare objects, jewellery and other luxury items without the usual hustle and bustle of auction houses. They can browse through paintings by Justin McCarthy and Monique van Genderen, as well as porcelain sculptures by Matthew Solomon and an engagement ring topped with a 4-carat yellow diamond.

All the items for sale at The Emporium come from the "Buy Now" online sales platform, which the auction house launched in December to diversify its business in the face of the pandemic. It also wanted to capitalise on younger collectors' appetite for vintage chic while consolidating its position in the burgeoning secondhand luxury market.

And this was no random objective. According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, it was worth €21bil (RM105bil) in 2019, up 8%.

Luxury items curated by celebrities

The Emporium is next phase illustration of Sotheby's shift to pre-owned luxury by offering a less intimidating entry point for less experienced collectors. That's why Patrick Drahi's company partnered with American makeup artist and entrepreneur Gucci Westman to select the pieces on display in its new New York store.

"I've always thought of luxury as something that brings joy. It's an emotional connection. There's a romance, there's a story. And it's just always surrounding yourself with this optimism and this energy," she said of her connection to luxury.

Through June 10, buyers can check out the items Westman has chosen at Sotheby's new outlet or on the "Buy Now" site. Among them are a Ricardo Mazal painting for US$12,500 (RM51,570), a pair of Art Nouveau desk lamps for US$2,400 (RM9,900), and a David Webb gold, platinum and diamond necklace for US$95,000 (RM391,922).

As items are sold, the Emporium's selection will be updated. The auction house plans to fully restock the space in August, then again in time for the holidays, according to Artnet News. More celebrities will follow Gucci Westman's lead in the coming months, stepping into the shoes of a curator for The Emporium. - AFP

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Sotheby's , Art Retail , The Emporium , New York


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