Starting today, buying art at Christie’s will be more expensive. In an update posted
on its website, the world’s leading auction house announced that it will expanding the number of artworks that will come saddled with the highest fee level for buyers, which is 25% of the purchase price.
Effective February 1, any work sold in New York that is priced up to $300,000 will incur that 25% buyer’s premium. The high threshold for that fee bracket was previously $250,000; before the second most recent fee increase, the high limit for the top fee was just $150,000. In London, all works sold for up to £225,000 will come with a buyer’s premium of 25%.
The subsequent fee brackets have also been shifted as a result. The portion of any sale that falls between $300,001 and $4 million will carry fees of 20%. A 13.5% fee will be levied against the portion of any sale that exceeds $4 million; the previous fee at this level was 12.5%. In London, the 20% fee applies to the portion of works price between £225,001 to £3 million and the 13.5% fee to the sum above £3 million.
It’s unclear how Christie’s rival Sotheby’s will respond to the fee hikes. It could follow suit and adjust its premiums accordingly; in 2017, Christie’s announced their last fee hike just a week after Sotheby’s announced theirs. Or Sotheby's could leave its fee structure unchanged—it doesn’t hurt to be the auction house where’s it’s slightly cheaper to buy art.
The announcement comes amid an uncertain outlook for the art market in 2019. In the quarterly earnings call in November, Tad Smith, Sotheby’s CEO, said he was “planning for market conditions in 2019 to be a bit more subdued than what we experienced at the end of 2017 and into early 2018.”