Slowing Auction Sales

The Wall Street Journal just posted on the slowing art market.  The article notes that Christie's released news of $5.4 billion in sales during 2016, a decline of 27% from 2015 and a 36% decline from two years ago. The Sotheby's drop was down 30%, Phillips seems to be holding steady on $500 million in auction sales, down only 1.5%, and had an additional $67.8 million in private sales.

This is a good article to sight for an overall market analysis, and it also contains some good conent on various categories and sectors.

The Wall Street Journal reports
The art market sank into a deeper slump last year, with London-based auction house Christie’s International PLC saying Wednesday it sold £4 billion, or $5.4 billion, of art last year, a 27% decline from a year earlier—and a 36% drop from the market’s peak two years ago.

Christie’s total included $4.4 billion in auction sales, down 32% from the year before. The drop was partly offset by a boost in privately brokered art sales, as more collectors sought to sell their art discreetly rather than risk putting pieces up for public bid. Christie’s sold $935.5 million privately, up 10% from a year earlier.

Rival Sotheby’s, based in New York, auctioned $4.1 billion last year, down 30% from the year before. Sotheby’s will release its consolidated sale totals later this month. Boutique house Phillips said it auctioned $500 million in art last year, down 1.5% from 2015, and privately sold an additional $67.8 million of art.

Fewer art trophies filtered on to the market last year, but masterworks that did fared well. These included Claude Monet’s “Grainstack,” an 1891 view of a harvested field that Denver stock picker Tom Marsico bought for $12 million in 2002 and resold for $81.4 million at Christie’s in New York in November. Christie’s also sold a $66.3 million Willem de Kooning, “Untitled XXV,” and a $58.2 million Peter Paul Rubens, “Lot and his Daughters.” Sotheby’s sold Pablo Picasso’s cubist portrait of a “Seated Woman” for $63.6 million.

Overall, sales were down across several key categories, with Christie’s selling $1.3 billion in contemporary art, down 41% from a year earlier. Its sales of impressionist and modern art—a category it now lumps in with modern British, American and Latin-American art—fell 50% to $997 million. Sales of luxury goods such as jewelry, watches and wine fell 3% to $735 million. Asian art sales fell 14% to $633 million.

Sales perked up in other areas, though. Christie’s sales of Old Master paintings, along with 19th-century art and Russian art, grew 31% to $312 million. The house racked up $217 million in sales of art online—a category that includes online bidding in live auctions as well as online-only auctions. Taken separately, the online-only sales totaled $67 million, up 84%.

In terms of geography, Christie’s said U.S. collectors took home $2 billion worth of Christie’s art, or about 37% of the house’s offerings. Asian bidders bought $705.8 million worth of art, or 31%, and collectors from Europe, the Middle East and India claimed $1.8 billion in art, or about 32% of Christie’s offerings.

Guillaume Cerutti, Christie’s new chief executive, called last year “challenging,” but said he sees signs of a turnaround. About a third of Christie’s bidders last year were first-timers, he said, an influx that could bolster competition. What’s more, he said, 79% of the house’s total offerings found buyers last year, a sell-through rate that he labeled “solid.” (The privately held company hasn’t divulged overall sell-through rates for previous years.)

Mr. Cerutti said Christie’s plans to invest more in collector hotspots like Beijing and Los Angeles. The art market faces a major test with a series of sales in London that start Feb. 28.

Corrections & Amplifications
Phillips auctioned $500 million in art last year, plus an additional $67.8 million in private sales. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Philllips’s total sales for 2016 were $500 million. (February 9, 2017)
Source: The Wall Street Journal 

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