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Ed Dolman, Christie’s CEO, said that far from abandoning this sector, Christie’s viewed it as an area of enormous potential growth to be developed regionally alongside their high-value international business.

He emphasised that it was not a question of going down-market, but of exploring non-traditional ways of presenting traditional material. In developing a strategy for reaching new buyers they are drawing on their New York experience of selling mixed catalogues via room settings.

These ‘House Sales’ have become a regular feature at Rockefeller Center since the closure of their Christie’s East rooms and are intended to attract local private buyers more used to the idea of furnishing than collecting. They have already extended this concept with ‘At Home’ sales at Christie’s South Kensington in May and more initiatives along these lines can be expected.

“We have come to realise that someone who buys a sideboard is unlikely to come back for more sideboards, but may well be in the market for different types of objects,” Mr Dolman observed.

To achieve a more flexible approach to marketing sales, he explained that they would be looking at more cost-effective methods of catalogue-production, freeing funds to reach a wider range of potential clients for each sale through post-cards, e-mails and e-catalogues.