Nov 22, 2017 by Alex Carter

How Christie’s Runs Art Events That Shatter World Records

The gavel came down and onlookers went wild. For $450 million dollars, the Da Vinci became the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.

Sitting with us in his office, Michael Moore, Director of Events and Tours at Christie’s, describes the countless hours of planning that culminate in moments like these.

Creating guest lists that delicately balance the perfect mix of celebrity, panache, and power. Weaving together different personalities and professions into a seating chart that becomes the event’s tapestry, with every element placed just so. Plucking insightful finds from a stream of information of who checked in, what they were interested in, and how to make the next event an even more explosive success.

Listening to Mr. Moore, it’s an expert craft, but all in a day’s work. It’s almost easy to forget that the resulting events are often the sort that make headlines and, most recently in the case of the Da Vinci auction, make history.


Be confident in your knowledge

Christie’s does more than just paintings. With watches, jewelry, wine, and dozens of other categories, Christie’s events span worlds of interest. As Mr. Moore explains, the guest lists for each event need to reflect a specific blend of guests relevant to that precise world.

As a cook’s trusted ingredients live in their pantry, Mr. Moore’s pantry is his guest database. An elaborate world of information about guests and clients lives in Christie’s customer relations management database, which Mr. Moore and his team tap into for every event.

“We can filter it based on the category of art we’re promoting at the event, their zip code, and their interest level,” he explains, and from there, they bring in specialists who have known their clients for years, and refine the guest list with a precision that blends art and science.

Event data helps Christie’s make sure every detail feels right to guests, down to making sure returning clients aren’t seated next to the same people at two dinners in a row.

None of this would be possible, as Mr. Moore points out, without a database filled with clean, trustworthy data, and the tools to organize it.

In the age of data, unique knowledge is still one of the greatest points that sets every event planner apart. Trust your data, and wield it with confidence.

And the results pay off. Acknowledging the top-notch curation of guests, The New York Times even created an interactive article of which guests were in the room at the Da Vinci auction, letting readers from around the world share a vicarious moment of being among the who’s who of the art world.

Embrace your best tools

Paper guest lists, to Mr. Moore, were a bane on events.

The guest list is one of the most crucial pieces of an invitation event. It encapsulates the expertise that goes into curating the ideal blend of people gathered together, and transitions from master schematic during event planning to vital handbook during check-in. No invitation event would happen without its guest list.

But there was no reason for guest lists to exist on paper.

“The minute you would print them, they were wrong.” He rolls his eyes. Twenty copies later, and hours of revisions later, you had a final version – until the next change. Even after the event, someone would have to sit and consolidate the lists into one authoritative piece.

Similar to knowing the essential elements for guests of the event, Mr. Moore knows the essential elements for himself and his team. Something had to change.

Now Christie’s doesn’t do any of that. Their guest lists live comfortably and seamlessly in the digital world of zkipster, with everything from seating plans to organized master lists to who showed up afterwards – “It’s all there for us. It’s just made our lives so much easier in the event world.”

The three things

What makes a good event stick in someone’s memory? He thinks for a moment.

“What’s on the wall, who’s in the room, and how the room is lit.”

It’s a punchy reminder of something that’s easy to forget. People go to an event, grand or humble, for a purpose. Successful event planners know their audience’s purpose; their events focus on making the essential elements perfect.

Draping an event in layers of pomp and circumstance doesn’t do a thing if the planner and guest are out of alignment with each other. Sometimes, it just takes knowing your three things.