Published: May 21, 2019
Casey Rogers is a specialist head of Christie’s Nineteenth Century furniture and decorative art department in New York. Rogers joined the department in 2003 and currently oversees business and client development, as well as expertise across various decorative and fine art sales. In her role as head of “The Collector” sales, Rogers works with a host of interior designers and decorators and she is also on the core team who put together Christie’s Lates programs. Antiques and The Arts Weekly met up with Rogers to get her take on current collecting trends, and how Christie’s is innovating to bring in new clients.
First of all, you’ve recently celebrated 15 years at Christie’s. Of all the amazing things you’ve sold, is there a single unexpected result that is most memorable to you?
Yes! I’ve been here for a number of amazing collections, but for me the most memorable single lot was a monumental pair of Baccarat torchères (known as the Tsar’s Candelabra) from Warner Brothers Studios that we sold in 2016. Apart from the obvious quality associated with Baccarat, they were a tour de force at 13 feet tall and included more than 700 pieces of hand-cut crystal, which took nearly four days to assemble. The model was first shown by Baccarat at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878 and were later admired by Tsar Nicolas II during his visit to Paris in 1896, hence their name “candélabre dit du Tsar.” The Warner Bros. pair, manufactured circa 1915, had a glamorous history: while they had been with Warner Bros. they had cameos in several movies, including A Star is Born with Judy Garland. They had all the hallmarks that make for an exceptional object: superior rarity, condition, craftsmanship and provenance. I had a ball working on this complex project and the payoff was worth it – we had estimated them at $600,000/$1 million and they sold for $1.325 million, which has been one of the top prices of my career.
You co-head “The Collector” Sale, but you said that was an Exceptional Sale. What differentiates the sale and how often are they offered?
In late 2017, we reintroduced decorative arts with three distinct sale platforms: The Exceptional Sale, “The Collector” and Christie’s Interiors. The Exceptional Sale is reserved for the “crème de la crème” of decorative arts and other rare objects, including musical instruments and antiquities. Rarity, craftmanship, provenance and condition comprise all the pieces of the puzzle when we seek out lots for this once-yearly sale. Our Collector Sale series focuses on the connoisseur-collector in the market for traditional Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century European and English furniture, porcelain and silver, with lots generally fetching between $5,000 and several hundred thousand dollars. We hold “The Collector” twice a year. Lastly, our Interiors sales target lifestyle buyers and continue to be a great design hunting ground for buyers new to auction, interior designers and even many of our established clientele. We hold three to four Interiors sales per year.
I’ve noticed your sale of ‘The Collector’ often involve a decorator. Can you tell me more about those partnerships?
For the Collector sales, we’ve been actively attracting tastemakers to bring a fresh perspective to our traditional selling categories. This season we worked with Maison Pierre Frey – they donated wallpaper, fabrics, wall coverings, table clothes from their 2019 spring line that we used to create in situ vignettes that incorporate every category and aspect of the sale, whether Eighteenth Century French furniture, English silver or modern Flora Danica porcelain…that when paired with contemporary textiles will hopefully create an eclectic and layered mix which reflect modern tastes and living. When we invite a decorator or fabric house to work with us, I am always impressed to see them attract attention to both an extremely decorative piece as well as an academic piece. We always are seeking opportunities to reinterpret traditional decorative arts in fresh settings that also pay homage to the works’ fine materials, superior craftsmanship and historic form. We look to our tastemakers to find a way for those items to speak to each other within a modern interior vignette that is approachable for new clientele. These collaborations also bring a bit more spirit and soul to the catalogs, to our exhibitions, and obviously, we work with them to carry through to Lates events.
Tell us about Christie’s Lates. Who is involved with organizing them? What was the goal when the program was started?
The Lates event program takes place every other month at our Rockefeller Center galleries in New York where guests can mix with like-minded art enthusiasts after hours. These events attract more than 500 of New York’s socialites and connoisseurs from the art, music and fashion industries and offer an unparalleled platform to learn more about the auction process and to preview lots from upcoming sales. Guests engage in an evening celebrating local artisans and food vendors, and filled with prominent design companies, specialist talks, curators and book signings, all in support of our sale viewings from departments such as decorative arts, design and postwar and contemporary art. The goal is to attract new audiences and introduce them to Christie’s. Many people still are not aware how accessible Christie’s is, that our exhibitions are free and open to the public and specialists are available to give advice and convey their passion and enthusiasm for great works of art.
Has that been successful? Has the program brought in new / younger collectors?
It’s been very successful! Our attendance numbers have surged since our first New York Lates in October 2017. Our December 2018 Lates was attended by more than 1,400 guests. We have seen an influx of potential collectors coming through our doors, engaging with our specialists and event partners and signing up for more information on our sales.
Have you observed recent trends in what collectors are looking for?
Over the past three to five years we’ve definitely seen more bidding activity around interesting objects with a story or important provenance – that “statement piece” whether it be a great piece of porcelain, silver or sculpture that they build a collection around. We rarely have collectors coming through the door who are decorating an entire residence in Louis XV style but they are excited to acquire a statement piece and then create an interior around it that is a mix of styles.
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