Local art sales still strong

Tamlyn Stewart

Tamlyn Stewart

Christie's, Britain's oldest auction house, is to lay off up to a quarter of its London-based staff as the fine art market reels from the effects of the credit crisis.

But it seems South Africa's art market is made of sturdier stuff as locally buyers are still bidding for fine art.

The 800 employees at Christie's London office have been told their jobs are under review and between 20percent and 25percent will go in anticipation of a 20 percent to 30percent drop in sales.

Nearly 30 graduate interns at the auction house were told not to come back to work after Christmas and the South Kensington wine department has been shut.

Its New York office has dismissed 80 employees. But South Africa was somewhat more insulated, said Mark Read, director of Everard gallery in Johannesburg.

"I do think our art market relative to the rest of the world will suffer rather less. I don't see a disaster in the South African art world. Certainly for me, business is good," he said.

Ross Douglas, director of the Joburg Art Fair presented by FNB, which is going ahead in April, said: "In London, galleries are closing down every day. But for our art fair not one gallery has pulled out. We didn't enjoy the same massive growth as in England and New York, so we won't have the same massive drop. There is less liquidity, less money around but good quality work will find a market." - With The Times News Service, London