It’s the kind of lush, cinematic vignette that conjures up elegant dinner parties in aristocratic estates, complete with silver candelabras, antique porcelain and rich Murano glass. But this ravishing scene isn’t from a movie set or an editorial photo shoot; it’s part of an online marketing strategy to help bring Old World objects into the modern day.
More and more, esteemed auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s are partnering with influential tastemakers to bring a bit of pizzazz to high-profile sales. For a duo of recent sales, Christie’s tapped British Vogue Style Editor Gianluca Longo to style spaces using objects and artwork that would soon be hitting the auction block. The editor has always dreamed of living in a conservatory, so he created a series of vignettes inside London’s iconic Syon House. Videos of those dreamy settings were then splashed across the auction house’s website and social media channels.
“The tastemakers are all experts in their fields, chosen for their ability to harmoniously bring a sale to life with great style,” explains Christie’s Head of Sale and Specialist Isabelle Cartier-Stone. “We approached Gianluca specifically due to his love of art, travel, fashion and interiors. He has an innate international approach and understanding of how to meld 17th through 19th century objects within a home today.”
And that partnership certainly paid off. Featuring English and European furniture, art, silver, ceramics and the like, the dual auctions brought in more than £4.5 million between an online sale and a live auction beamed around the world. As anticipated, pieces showcased in Longo’s vignettes attracted strong bidding. A French ormolu and cloisonné enamel étagère cabinet sold for £43,750, twice the estimate. And a set of six grained Montgomerie pattern armchairs sold for £11,875, again double the estimate.
Tastemakers and auction houses seem to be a match made in marketing heaven. To wit: Last fall, Christie’s asked American heiress and businesswoman Aerin Lauder to create a table setting in her East Hampton home, mixing family objects with pieces from the sale of the Jayne Wrightsman collection. For a 2019 auction, Sotheby’s partnered with Victoria Beckham, who exhibited soon-to-be-sold Old Master paintings in her London boutique. And back in 2018, even Martha Stewart got in on the action, selecting her favorite porcelain from the Christie’s sale of the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller; the domestic doyenne was smitten with an 1815 Derby service featuring bold fruit and flowers.
Beyond just style, these tastemakers are also promoting sustainability. Younger clients and collectors are encouraged to invest in quality pieces — timeless antiques with generations of skill and craftsmanship behind them. Curated vignettes show them how to mix these treasures with modern-day pieces, creating a home that is lovingly layered over time. “I love seeing that there is a generation of late 30-somethings whose interiors are an extension of their own personal style — ultimately an expression of themselves as they embrace ‘special’ for everyday living,” Cartier-Stone concludes.