In recent months, the global team at Chrome Productions was charged with designing and producing the ‘Ultimate Hybrid Auction’ event, as Christie’s auction house welcomed clients back into their flagship Rockefeller Center salesroom in New York for the first Evening sale since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Our approach included a radically re-designed immersive auction room with some big changes – like the monumental LED screens that showcased real-time, high-definition bidding streamed from both London and Hong Kong and dynamic artwork details – and some fine details such as enhanced lighting design, new camera angles & updated on-screen graphics.
“When this brief came in, we knew that we were the team for the job.” said Robert Chew, Chrome’s Vice President, North America. “Cumulatively, we have over a decade’s worth of fine art & live event experience. It was Chrome’s unique mixture of deep familiarity with the auction business and broad experience in remote broadcasts, live events and creative cinematography that allowed us to build upon Christie’s previous success in the space to create something that truly sets the bar in the industry post-Pandemic.”
The two live-broadcast events spanned 3 evening sales, 120 exceptional works of art, and over $1 billion in sales. Most importantly, the production engaged more than 1.2 million online viewers and encouraged bidding from 27 countries around the globe. Thursday’s sales, The Cox Collection and the 20th Century Evening Sale, smashed artist records and returned Christie’s second-highest total in a single evening and generated $786 million (second only to Christie’s 2017 Evening Sale, which included Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi ).
“In order to create an industry leading ‘hybrid’ auction, we needed to find the magic recipe between an elevated in-room experience for the ticketed VIP audience, as well as a dynamic, entertaining and immersive experience for the global digital audience watching and bidding at home”, said Chrome’s CEO Joel Mishcon.
“Nothing can replicate the feeling and atmosphere of being in the room at a live auction, especially this year – given that art & colour flooded the room from the monumental ultra-high resolution LED screens that enveloped the room. Because of this we knew we had to give viewers something that the in-room audience didn’t have. So, we conceptualized innovations including a hidden camera behind the auctioneer that looked out over the re-imagined sale room and showed bidders at home how the global bids from London and Hong Kong were being fielded via the stunning curved video wall at the back of the room. It gave online viewers ‘the best seat in the house’, despite not even being in the house, and it made for some fascinating and compelling viewing during some of the week’s fiercest bidding battles. As events around the world continue to build towards the perfect fusion of in-person and digital audiences, we believe that success lies in the elevation of the experience for both sides of the coin, even if they are not quite the same.”
The marquee auctions that Christie’s and their competitors host in cities like New York, London & Hong Kong throughout the year present complex set of challenges almost unique to the field. The are simultaneously high-profile live events that attract a concentrated group of ultra high net worth individuals and – ever increasingly – live entertainment broadcasts that attract a broader audience of interested onlookers. In most cases outside of auction, a hybrid event would have a clear focus – the event supersedes the broadcast or vice versa. However, given the incredibly important transactions that take place both in the room & online via the broadcast, auctions present a unique case in which the in-room & online experience must be in lock-step.
Initial coverage in trade publications such as ArtNews, The Art Newspaper & Artnet and major news outlets such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal has been positive – with one journalist noting that Christie’s “hosted the sale in a revamped venue minted with digital updates…which elevated competition among buyers” and ultimately deciding that “the moves paid off.”
“Working on the Christie’s auction was an enormous feat from a post-production perspective”, Head of Post-Production, Ben Turze noted. “Chrome was able to pre-vis room designs, camera angles, and develop and deliver a suite of over 650 video assets for the live shows which would engage bidders in a profoundly new and exciting way”.
Turze continued, “Working across time-zones and against the clock, our team of editors and graphics artists pulled together a stunning array of vignettes to showcase the full range of art across three sales. To create an immersive experience for both the in-room and remote bidders, we had to devise a workflow which would enable us to quickly format each of these edits for a wide range of displays from mobiles/laptops to the multiple in-room displays, culminating in the 35ft in-room LED wall. Seeing the art come to life, and the electric atmosphere in the auction makes it all worthwhile.”
Katya Kazakina of Artnet may have put it best with her consensus that, “the message was clear: auctions are now full-blown entertainment, catering to both a local and global audience”. It seems that for now, the enhanced and innovated auctions produced by Chrome allowed Christie’s to cement their position as an immersive and technically advanced market leader in the auction world.