Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The auction houses has just announced a year-on-year rises of 9% in worldwide sales for the first six months of 2013.

That puts Christie's half-yearly sales total, including buyer's premium, at £2.4bn ($3.68bn).

Just as importantly, private sales are again included in the headlines for the auction house's results, indicating just how much of a priority they remain.

However, the rate of growth in private sales, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of total sales turnover at Christie's has slowed considerably. They may account for 19.4% of all sales by value at £465.2m ($711.8m) now, but in the first six months of 2012 they already accounted for 18% at £413.4m.

And while the value of private sales rose by 53% year-on-year January to June 2012, for 2013 that figure has dropped to 12.5%.

Other headline statistics point to where competition is seen as being at its fiercest between the world's top auction houses.

"Fuelled by a global demand for art, and aided by Christie's online initiatives and investment in growth markets, auctions continued to attract new collectors at every price level and from all around the world. Bidders in the first six months came from 128 countries and 10% of those were new clients," said the company.

Online Bidding

Their online offer, Christie's Live, is attracting a far higher proportion of new clients, with 46% of all buyers at their online-only sales being new to them.

New geographical markets are also a key battleground. Christie's announced a 15% growth in registered bidders from Asia, and in addition to being the first international auction house to win a licence to operate independently in China, they have now announced an auction in Mumbai in December.

Tapping into new revenue streams while staying competitive and profitable has long meant adapting the traditional auction house business model, as Christie's chief executive Steven P. Murphy acknowledged: "The hallmark of Christie's strategy is to build the capability to serve both new and existing clients wherever they are, from auction to private sales to online.

"Our first half results are proof of concept that Christie's is successfully connecting in new markets and with new clients."