Meet the Innovators: Jon-Ross Le Haye, Christie's

October 31, 2023

We sit down with Christie's Global Head of Digital Design, Jon-Ross Le Haye, to explore the key areas of digital innovation happening in art auctions.

1. How do you view art collectors' relationship today with technology in comparison to other industries?

We’ve seen a significant shift toward online bidding, with 80% of bids in both Live and Online Auctions now placed online and 50% of our auctions held exclusively online. This shift underscores collectors' growing comfort with digital transactions and how they value the convenience online bidding brings.

The launch of secure, on-chain bidding via Christie’s 3.0 further supports this trend whilst underscoring our commitment to this nascent yet growing area of the art market. Collectors interest in code-based art and the digital tools needed to support them is driving this technological change.

The art world's relationship with technology is evolving rapidly, bridging the gap to more established online shopping experiences. It's a testament to the adaptability and resilience of the art market, as it positions itself at the intersection of art + tech, ready to engage the next generation of art collector.

2. What trends are you noticing about how collectors interact with art?

The trend of digital ownership and the potential for blockchain technology to authenticate and secure the provenance of artworks is significant.

However, I’m also seeing a counter-trend among digital artists to create physical works alongside their NFTs. Art making and appreciation remains a deeply personal and emotive experience, and collectors place a high value on the tactile and sensory aspects of viewing art in-person. I think this trend of hybrid, in-person viewing, and online bidding will continue to grow.

With this in mind, we’re ensuring that viewing art in-person remains central to our business, while our digital bidding and viewing tools continue to improve, providing bidders with the convenience and security they expect when transacting with Christie’s online.

3. What needs to happen for the art world to become more oriented towards championing artists?

Our online artist related content serves as a valuable resource for collectors and visitors seeking to explore contemporary artists and gain insights into the art marketplace in general.

I’ve enjoyed contributing to our long-term partnership with 1-54, where we've been able to spotlight contemporary African art for our global collectors through online platforms and hosted events. Additionally, I was delighted to see Lakwena Maciver's captivating lobby takeover at Christie’s during Frieze London this year. These artist-led projects play a vital role in our business by infusing their vibrant creativity into our spaces and online content.

4. Do you believe that technology can play a large part in facilitating that shift?

Definitely, is our front door and needs to reflect the huge diversity of what we have to offer and the variety of platforms and resources which we invest in to make our world more accessible.  

Technology is also central to our ‘Artists First’ approach on Christie’s 3.0. Many emerging artists have found their first auction house experience through our C3.0 platform, including our inaugural solo show with Diana Sinclair. Diana’s work Phases consisted of 4 generative pieces tied to external time-based dependencies. It's essential that we display new art-forms like code-based generative art on our website and in-person by working in close partnership with the artist.  


5. What do you consider the benefits of blockchain technology for the art market?

In 2018, Christie’s, piloted art transactions on a blockchain as part of a collaboration with Artory. This was an industry first then and was used for a sale artwork from The Ebsworth Collection, sold in New York… we’ve come a long way since then as a marketplace.

As I’ve mentioned above, in September 2022 we launched Christie’s 3.0. By making this investment, we demonstrated our commitment to both artists and collectors in the Web3 space.  This was a first for an art auction house – our own on-chain marketplace. We’ve held 6 auctions in our first year and all have been successful and attracted a very different audience.  

Blockchain brings extra transparency around provenance and pricing and is becoming a training ground for young and digitally savvy collectors – a very important segment for us. 

6. What is your favourite museum to explore?

Tough one, but probably the V&A, primarily for its extensive digital art archive, which boasts a collection of over 3,000 digital art and design pieces spanning from the 1950s to the present day. If I need a break from digital art and design, the museum offers a rich variety of exhibits, ranging from costumes to photography and everything in between. 

7. Which artist(s) are you particularly admiring the work of currently?

I've always been interested in conceptual video art, admiring artists like Lindsay Seers, and Francis Alÿs, as well as video-art pioneers like Nam June Paik and Keith Haring. Consequently, it's only natural that I've gravitated toward working with code-based artists.

I really admire artists like Emily Xie and William Mapan, who skilfully harness code to craft intricate textures and patterns that exude a handmade aesthetic while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of technological execution to a whole new level.

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