Christie's Hong Kong staff tested positive for COVID-19, a week after the finale of Hong Kong spring sales

The Value heard from a credible source that a COVID-19 case has been reported from Christie’s Hong Kong office, merely a week after the finale of Hong Kong spring sales. It is said that Christie’s has closed their Hong Kong office and testings have been arranged for the close contacts of the infected employee. 

Christie’s Hong Kong has closed their office after reporting a confirmed COVID-19 case (stock photo) 

The source also informed The Value that the infected staff worked at the back office. Yet, during the sale week, the employee had close contact with his/her frontline colleagues. The auction house told us that they will make an official announcement as soon as possible. 

Note: This article was originally published at 3:30pm. Christie's has provided an official reply as of 6:50pm and is as follows.

“We can confirm that a Christie’s staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, following a positive test result from an immediate family member. The colleague first experienced symptoms on 19 July and tested positive the same day.

The staff member has been working at our Alexandra House office and galleries, but was not present in either of the other two exhibition venues in Pedder building or Jardine house over the sales period. Additionally, while at Alexandra House, the staff member was not present on any occasion in the auction room, and was only working in the lower traffic areas of the office. The colleague did not show symptoms while at the office and wore a mask while working. We are taking immediate steps to safeguard the community.

Clients have been notified, and colleagues who have been in close contact have been informed and will be tested. Additionally, the office will be deep cleaned and will remained close for a two week period. The health and safety of our colleagues, clients and the wider community remains our top priority.'

Auction houses holding their seasonal sales simultaneously is an uncommon practice. Photo taken at Christie’s sale at Alexandra House

Christie’s Hong Kong spring sale was originally scheduled to take place in May and was pushed back to July due to the pandemic. They also relocated live auctions to their main office in Alexandra House, Central, from the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) in Wanchai. Previews were held at three locations respectively, according to sale categories:

  1. Central Pedder Building|Contemporary and Modern art
  2. Central Jardine House|Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy
  3. Central Alexandra House|Watches, Handbags, Jewellery and Accessories

Due to the pandemic, multiple auction houses in Hong Kong, including Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Phillips and Poly Auction, held their spring sales simultaneously, a practice rarely seen in the auction industry. (Sotheby’s at the HKCEC; Phillips at JW Marriott Hotel, Admiralty; Poly Auction at Poly Gallery, 7/F, One Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong)

This season’s sale previews bustled with excitement. Photo taken at Christie’s preview at Pedder Building, Central 

Based on our observation, all Christie’s employees at the sales wore masks, apart from the auctioneer. Photo taken at Christie’s sale at Alexandra House

Although previews and auctions took place at different locations, collectors, connoisseurs and clients still travelled from one place to another to view all the pieces on offer. It is suspected that the loosening of gathering restrictions have caused a large number of people to flock to the previews. 

The final live auction of this season, Christie’s ‘Important Watches Including The Titanium Collection and an Important Private Asian Collection Part 3’, was held on 13 July (last Monday). 

According to Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection, the novel coronavirus’ incubation period lasts for 1 to 14 days. 

The last live auction of this season is Christie’s ‘Important Watches Including The Titanium Collection and an Important Private Asian Collection Part 3’

Hong Kong’s third wave of the pandemic has become increasingly severe. The figure of confirmed cases now surpasses the 1,755 cases of SARS seen during the 2003 epidemic. A number of new measures have been announced by the Hong Kong government, such as banning dine-in services from 6pm to 5am and civil servants to work from home for a week. 

On a global level, countries continue to struggle in controlling the spread of the disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) on 18 July announced an increase of nearly 260,000 cases in just 24 hours, the highest number seen since the start of the pandemic. 

The Value will continue to provide you with the latest updates.