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Both the New York and London operations at Haunch of Venison will go, with staff cuts and the shedding of artists from the gallery's stable.

The auction house kept its public announcement brief but is thought to have decided that resources would be better placed chasing highly lucrative private treaty deals in the secondary market than comparatively costly and riskier primary market business.

Christie's Private Sales will take over the Bond Street gallery in March and it will become a permanent exhibition and sales space.

"We have not formulated these plans lightly and unfortunately this proposed restructure will affect a number of employees at Haunch of Venison, as well as some artists represented by the gallery," said a spokesman. "We are making every effort to assist and support our colleagues, artists and friends at the gallery who may be affected during the transition."