Christie's Teams Up with Art Dealers to Curate Pop-Up Exhibition, Bringing Rodin's The Kiss to Hong Kong

Traditionally, the relationship between art dealers and auction houses are often deemed to be adversarial. They are competing for business that targets the same group of client. Yet, Christie's has turned this tension into collaboration. In the recent Hong Kong Spring Sales, Christie’s unprecedentedly introduced three leading European art dealers to showcase their sculptures at the preview in May. One of which is Bowman Sculpture who brought with him sculptures by the famous artist Rodin, including The Kiss.

Didier Claes (left) and Francois Curiel (right), Christie's Chairman of Europe and Asia

Didier Claes is particularly interested in African art

Francois Curiel (left) and Xavier Eeckhout (right)

Xavier Eeckhout is enthusiastic about animal sculptures

At Christie’s Spring Sales preview, Francois Curiel, Christie’s Chairman of Europe and Asia, showed up at the venue and toured the media around. The three featured dealers mainly specialises in sculpture, namely Bowman Sculpture based in London, Didier Claes who is keen on African art, and Xavier Eeckhout who brought in numerous animal sculptures.

The Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin

Bowman Sculpture is known for their Auguste Rodin sculptures

Long story short, Christie’s held a special exhibition inviting three European dealers to exhibit their artworks at their preview venue in Hong Kong. If collectors or buyers were interested in certain pieces, they could deal directly with the dealers. Christie’s would not interfere. We were curious about how this collaboration worked. Thus, we talked to the founder of Bowman Sculpture – Robert Bowman.

Robert Bowman is one of the top sculpture dealers

Bowman had worked in Sotheby’s for 15 years as the Director of European Works of Art before establishing his own company – Bowman Sculpture in London. Founded in 1993, Bowman Sculpture is famous for their collection of Rodin sculptures. Robert Bowman is one of the most respectable dealers in the industry, having been a member of the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) ‘Sculpture from the 19th, 20th and 21st Century’ vetting committee for 15 years.

Robert said to us, ‘Which name would people recognize? Christie’s or Bowman?’ He expressed that those who went to the exhibition knew Christie’s but they might not have heard of Bowman Sculpture. Yet, through a collaboration with Christie’s, Bowman Sculpture builds up a positive image as a reliable company which is accredited by leading auction houses in the sector.

Bowman Sculpture’s works are often seen in TEFAF

Bowman believed that Christie’s can be a stepping stone to path Bowman Sculpture’s way into the Asian market. On the other hand, in what way is this crossover beneficial to Christie’s?

‘Loyalty,’ answered Bowman. Because Christie’s had provided them a chance to exhibit their pieces, if dealers are to buy or sell for clients in auctions, their preferred auction house would be Christie’s.

Auguste Rodin’s (1840-1917) Le baiser (The Kiss) from Bowman Sculpture

Another fact is that this kind of sculptures falls under European art, seldomly seen in sales in Asia. Bringing these sculptures to Asia can help test the waters before Christie’s sell these artworks in the region.Therefore, the collaboration between Christie’s and the dealers proved to be beneficial on both ends. If collectors fail to buy certain sculptures from Christie’s, they can approach these dealers for alternative purchases; if the collectors or viewers are interested in the dealers’ sculptures, they will know Christie’s is the place to go to.

Le Baiser (The Kiss) statue by Auguste Rodin was sold for £12.6m at Christie’s London

Another example of Rodin's Le Baiser (The Kiss) statue was sold for £12.6m (US$16,5m) to an Asian collector at Christie's London this month. Could it be the positive result yielded from the collaboration between Christie’s and the dealers?