Hackers took down the website but couldn’t stop the season’s most important auctions, including the sale of works by van Gogh, Picasso, and Basquiat.

Facade of Christie's auction house, with flags and doorman visible, in Manhattan, New York City, New York, September 15, 2017. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)Facade of Christie’s auction house, with flags and doorman visible, in Manhattan,
New York City, New York, September 15, 2017. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Christie’s is one of the world’s leading auction houses, famous for its sales of fine art, jewelry, and historical artifacts. And yet days before the auction house was expected to sell as much as $840 million worth of art via various auctions this week, it was crippled by a cyberattack that shut down its website and raised concern about control of sensitive client information.

On Friday, May 10, The New York Times broke the news that Christie’s website had been hacked and had shut down the previous evening. In a statement, Christie’s spokesman, Edward Lewine, confirmed what had happened and stated the auction house had brought in a team of technology experts to address the problem and would provide further updates to clients.

“A cyberattack like this is the 21st-century equivalent of a hand grenade in a small room,” art market lawyer Thomas C. Danziger, who often represents clients at auction, told The New York Times. “Twenty-five years ago, it would have been a flood or a hurricane.”

The cyberattack will likely have little impact on eight of the major live auctions in New York and Geneva this week, events featuring paintings by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, because serious bidders will have other channels to work through. Yet the great unknown is whether critical client data has been breached in the cyberattack.

Andy Warhol's "Flowers."A person looks at US artist Andy Warhol’s “Flowers” during a media preview
at Christie’s, ahead of their May 14 21st Century Evening Sale, on May 3, 2024,
in New York City. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Christie’s has not elaborated on the nature of the attack but Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Cerutti said in a statement: “I want to assure you that we are managing this incident according to our well-established protocols and practices, with the support of additional experts.

“This included among other things the proactive protection of our main website by taking it offline. I am pleased to reassure you that our clients for these sales will be able to bid securely in person, on the phone or via Christie’s Live.”

As of Wednesday morning, the website was still not fully functional.

The 20th Century Evening Sale, taking place Thursday, May 16, and featuring art by famous figures like Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Georgia O’Keefe, is expected to experience $500 million in sales.

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