Imagine having your pick of over 300 pieces of fine antique furniture, ceramics, silver, and art to arrange as you please. That was the task for artist Riley Sheehey—well, virtually, at least. To celebrate its third annual Collector Sale, auction house Christie’s tapped Sheehey—whose playful illustrations have earned her a devoted Instagram following, as well as collaborations with brands like Moda Operandi and Dante’s bar—to paint a series of rooms featuring combinations of the many antiques in the sale. For Sheehey, an avowed grandmillennial, the commission was a dream come true. And for any other lovers of antiques, maximalism, and eclectic style, the online sale—which “opens” for previews on christies.com today and runs from March 23 to April 7—is a must-shop.
Comprising antiques from several collection, the sale presents an intriguing melange of 17th- to 20th-century treasures—spread across a wide price range. To drum up excitement (and in the absence of an in-person preview for the entirely online sale), Sheehey painted three “rooms” featuring lots.
“It was definitely a fantasy,” says the artist. “Usually when I do renderings, either the designer or the client will tell me kind of what everything should look like and I bring their vision to life. This time I kind of had carte blanche. I got to say, ‘If I had an unlimited budget, where would I put all these things?”
Her answer is apropos for an auction that celebrates collecting across eras and styles: “I think what’s so fun about the sale is when you see the lots, it looks like a very eclectic mix of items, but they look so good together,” says Sheehey. “I think that that kind of mixing and matching is very much how people are decorating now.”
Leaning on her own love of antiques—but with a fresh twist, Sheehey painted a suite of rooms featuring standout items like a leopard-print Empire salon sofa (her favorite piece from the sale), crimson cabinet, and Chinese folding screen arranged in groupings of her own imagination.
This fresh take on antiques is exactly what Christie’s hopes to achieve with the online sale.
“We always try to look for a really fresh perspective for these sales, particularly in these traditional categories such as European furniture and ceramics and silver,” says Casey Rogers, specialist of 19th-century furniture and decorative art at Christie’s and head of the Collector sale. “Getting really creative around the sales and utilizing the digital platform has really been a key to the success of the tastemaker collaboration.”
It’s also a way to engage a younger audience in genres that are sometimes derided as dusty (though we have our own thoughts on that). In fact, Sheehey’s involvement came at the suggestion of a junior specialist who—what else—followed her on Instagram.
“These collaborations are so important to not only harnessing what the possibilities are online, but also resonating with a newer audience,” says Rogers. “One of the real main tenets of what we’re trying to do with our Collector sale, with online sales, and the decorative arts in general is accessibility. I think that there has been a certain notion around the big [auction] houses, but I think the online sales are attracting a younger clientele to Christie’s and toward traditional categories.”
Of course, it’s a move we at House Beautiful know well, having coined the “grandmillennial” label to refer to those young aesthetes partial to all things chintz, needlepoint, and antique. It’s a concept, Rogers says, that has only grown in popularity since the COVID-induced lockdown. “We talk a lot about the ‘grandma chic’ movement,” she says. “But I really think there is solid online engagement to back these taste changes up. We are seeing now more than ever that our clients have been looking more at the four walls around them, looking for a way to make them more comfortable, more layered, more meaningful, more about one’s own identity.”
The most personal spaces, after all, never go out of style.
See Rogers’s picks from the auction below and shop the entire sale here.
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