“Christie’s, the 248-year-old auction house, is taking off its suit and putting on some ripped jeans. To promote its May 12 auction, If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday, the company posted a YouTube video of skateboarder Chris Martin careening past multimillion-dollar art to the indie hit Sail by Awolnation. The curator, Loic Gouzer, a handsome contemporary art expert who’s been linked to Mad Men star January Jones, hyped the works on his Instagram feed. Last July, Christie’s held a charity sale hosted by Leonardo DiCaprio (who happens to be a friend of Gouzer’s). And during 2013 it ran 49 Web-only, youth-friendly auctions—prints went for as little as a few hundred dollars. The initiatives have helped bring in a record $7.1 billion in sales in the past year, compared with $6.3 billion at rival Sotheby’s(BID).
All this was dreamed up by Christie’s chief executive officer, Steven Murphy. Unlike his competitors, Murphy has no prior fine art expertise (or noble European lineage) and says that selling artists’ work isn’t that different from his former jobs as president of Angel Records and publishing house Rodale. Soon after he arrived at Christie’s in 2010, he began allowing buyers to bid on works online. It seems obvious, but for a fusty auction house it was a revolutionary tactic. . . . .”