Christie's Auction House

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As the premier art auction house in the nineteenth century, Christie’s was the site for viewing and acquiring art as well as an important social scene. Thus, the auction house was an important alternative to other, less accessible art venues, such as private galleries and emergent museums. It was thus a means of making art available to the public as both spectacle and possession, bringing art home to the English public metaphorically and literally. Thomas Rowlandson’s depiction of an art sale at Christie’s deftly illustrates this blurring of spectacle and spectator as well as the variety of viewing practices: men and women not only come and go, looking at paintings, but they also sit watching and conversing with each other.