Christie’s sold £2.35bn of art in the first half of 2017: so how’s the market doing?

Continued global demand and “creative sale planning” helped Christie’s sell £2.35bn worth of art in the first six months of 2017, a 14 percent increase over the same period in 2016.

Industry commentators seemed mildly surprised by the figures. Digging a little deeper, it seems the strong performance of Christie’s auctions (£2.2 billion of the total, a 29 percent rise) is down to a shift from private sales to public auctions – perhaps due to the auction house’s increasing use of guarantees to offset the risks of selling at auction, which might well be covered by “creative sale planning”. For some, the conclusion is that the auction market has not rebounded from the falls of 2016 – not at Christie’s anyway.

Christie’s total sales, including private sales and its online-only business, showed a 14 percent increase over last year’s halfway figures to reach £2.35 billion. Online-only sales were just about the same as last year at £19.8 million (the average price per lot was $7,709, incidentally).

Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti (right) seemed happy enough: “Christie’s continues to lead the auction market, characterised in the first half by increasing global demand and a stronger supply than 2016 … We are encouraged by these results, and continue to adapt our operations to this new international context. We look forward to a strong second half of 2017 and beyond.”

At least prices are going up: 38 lots were sold for over £10 million, compared to just 14 in the same period last year. Christie’s also saw a 29 percent increase in the number of new buyers with over £1 million to spend. The sell-through rate across all categories was a pretty impressive 81 percent, and auction sales were pretty evenly balanced around the world – 35 percent for the US and Asia, 30 percent for what Christie’s calls EMERI (Europe and other emerging markets, which includes Dubai).

US-based sales are booming, though. While EMERI and Asia auction sales were pretty level, sales in the States were up by more than half. Either the rest of the world is coming to the USA to buy art or Stateside investors are looking for some alternative to putting America first.

Above: Brancusi’s La muse endormie, sold by Christie’s in New York for $57,367,500

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