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Auction Analysis: Contemporary Art, New York – May 2013

No. Pages6
ResearchersNathan Engelbrecht, Anders Petterson, Sofia Touzani
Report TypeAuction Analysis

Last week’s Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sales in New York raised a total of $759,680,000 (excluding buyer’s premium) against a pre-sale estimate of $685,800,000 – $906,800,000, which is the second highest total since November 2012 ($764 million). The sales total was 19.9% higher than May 2012 and 14 % above the peak of the market in May 2008.

For the third consecutive season of New York contemporary sales, Christie’s secured the top spot by beating its own record set in November 2012 by 19.8% and reached a historic sales total of $435,475,000. In comparison, Sotheby’s fell 12% short of the low pre-sale estimate with a total sale of $256,245,000. The damage was largely caused by four lots failing to sell; a Francis Bacon estimated at $30-40 million and Jeff Koons ’New Hoover Celebrity IV’ estimated at $10-15 million and two lots by Mark Rothko and Maurizio Cattelan, both lots estimated for $6-8 million.

Despite the record result for Christie’s, the auction market is starting to show signs of strain from the intense competition between the top houses. Sotheby’s failure to meet its pre-sale expectations is symptomatic of a market now heavily reliant on mega sales and record prices. Unless the auction houses can pull in top consignments at the ultra high-end of the market and also consistently sell at these prices, market confidence could quickly change.