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Livestream case study

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OVERVIEW

Sotheby’s has been uniting collectors with world-class works of art since 1744.

Sotheby’s became the first international auction house when it expanded from London to New York (1955), the first to conduct sales in Hong Kong (1973), India (1992) and France (2001), and the first international fine art auction house in China (2012).

Today, Sotheby’s has a global network of 80 offices in 40 countries and presents auctions in 10 different salesrooms, including New York, London, Hong Kong and Paris.

Sotheby’s approached its long-time production partner Chrome Productions, who it has been working with for over 8 years and challenged them to begin imagining the ‘auction of the future’.

Sotheby’s presents private sale opportunities in more than 70 categories, including S|2, the gallery arm of Sotheby’s Global Fine Art Division, and three retail businesses: Sotheby’s Wine , Sotheby’s Diamonds , and Sotheby’s Home , the online marketplace for interior design.

THE CHALLENGE

In March 2020 Sotheby’s realised that the global Coronavirus pandemic would present significant challenges to their conventional business model for marquee auctions.

Without the ability to travel, and with strict social distancing measures in place across the UK, US and Asia, the traditional ‘auction room’ setup was impossible to create.

However, there was still a need and demand for Sotheby’s to continue with the key marquee summer auctions.

Sotheby’s approached its long-time production partner Chrome Productions, who it has been working with for over 8 years and challenged them to begin imagining the ‘auction of the future’.

This was further complicated as the first of these auctions, the New York Summer Evening Sale, was only two months away, with global bidding expected from New York, London and Hong Kong.

THE SOLUTION

Together – and in only 2 months – Chrome and Sotheby’s developed and implemented a solution that successfully came to fruition on 29th June 2020.

Chrome developed a new virtual event template that enabled the auctions to go ahead by combining client telephone bidding through Sotheby’s experts, online bidding, and state-of-the-art broadcast and streaming technology.

After an intense planning phase, Chrome quickly assembled a global team of 49 across London, New York and Hong Kong to begin the design of the sets in each location, and implement the technology solution – including production equipment, camera selection, studio and networking infrastructure across three continents.

In addition, Chrome also worked with Sotheby’s to create over 180 film assets covering every work of art that was being auctioned.

This was also made available online via the Sotheby’s digital catalogue for people to view in advance of the event.

Joel Mishcon, founder and managing director of Chrome Productions said: “For us to be able to help one of our long-standing clients completely reimagine, through technology and production, how their business can continue to operate is an amazing COVID story.

You now have a global, high-production-value auction experience, that makes it accessible to people around the world.

We have been very careful about how we operate our crews and our set to adhere to guidelines.”

THE RESULTS

The New York Evening Auction combined 3 separate sales and ran seamlessly across Hong Kong, London and New York, with Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s Chairman and lead auctioneer orchestrating out of a purpose built ‘command centre’ set in London.

The 5-hour long show, broadcast on both Sotheby’s’ website and live on Cable TV channel Cheddar TV, was the first of its kind event in the auction world, allowing global, real-time bidding in a high-definition broadcast.

The event realised $363.2 million in sales, showcased by the Francis Bacon Triptych that eventually went under the hammer for $85 million after a 10-minute bidding war between a telephone bidder in New York and an online bidder in China.

It set an action record of the ‘highest price ever achieved via an online bid’, showing an ever-increasing appetite for high value purchasing via the internet.

Oliver Barker, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and the evening’s auctioneer, said: “To have achieved what we did, and in the space of just few months is absolutely phenomenal. In the early days of COVID-19, when we were challenged to re-imagine the live auction experience I don’t think any of us could have imagined we would go on to create a live television event of this magnitude, with a beautiful new auction format and production.

Despite my own history as an auctioneer, I will admit that it didn’t seem possible even a few months ago to orchestrate these marquee New York sales via London and around the world.

Something this complicated came with its own set of challenges and risks, but the team at Chrome truly distinguished themselves, both in their creative vision and in their execution of the event.

I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together.”

MOVING FORWARD

Following the success of this event, Sotheby’s again worked with Chrome to implement the same process for their Marquee London Summer Auction that took place In July 2020.

Chrome again produced the entire event creating over 100 assets and overseeing the production. As well as the live broadcast on the Sotheby’s website, this event also had the added complication of socially-distanced public attendance at their New Bond Street auction room in London.

Similar to the previous auction this event went off seamlessly, and was also broadcast across Sotheby’s’ social media channels, generating an audience of over 150,000, further global media coverage and realising sales of over £180m.

MEDIA COVERAGE

“Another extraordinarily slick production from Sotheby’s, with the results to match,” said Wendy Goldsmith, a London-based art adviser who was watching Sotheby’s auction online. “These marquee sales are now the public face of the entire art market.”
nytimes.com

“Live online art auctions ‘better than Netflix’ as sales rebound from coronavirus pandemic”
inews.co.uk

“It was a marathon, but bravo. I can see how this could become full blown reality TV with Sotheby’s broadcasting from Honolulu, Moscow, Dubai”
nytimes.com

“An anonymous telephone bidder paid $85 million for a Francis Bacon triptych during a marathon series of live-streamed, online auctions held at Sotheby’s on Monday that could go a long way to bolstering confidence in the art market amid a global pandemic.”
www.wsj.com

“Knocked down in lockdown: reinventing auction houses for the coronavirus age”
campaignlive.co.uk

“An auction of contemporary, Impressionist and modern pieces on June 29th showed that buyers are no longer reticent about bidding online for art”
economist.com

“Sotheby’s live-streamed auction a sign of things to come”
cgtn.com

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ABOUT CHROME PRODUCTIONS

Chrome is a London based production company, with offices in the US, producing ground-breaking, inspiring and award-winning content for a digital audience. Born into the world of extreme sports over a decade ago, we started out pushing boundaries and we haven’t stopped since. Our people, our passion, our energy and our pride in what we do has helped us earn long standing relationships with some of the world’s leading brands, build audiences, and command a trust that we will always deliver over expectation. With specialisms in sports, luxury, automotive, travel and lifestyle, it is our pledge to always produce work that is unique, adventurous and spectacular.

Contact

James Harrison

[email protected]

+44 (0)7904 160 840