Auction Analysis: New York Post-War and Contemporary Sales – Nov 2014

No. Pages6
ResearchersAnders Petterson, Rachel Goss
Report TypeAuction Analysis

Last week’s Post-War & Contemporary Evening sales raised a total of $1,094,590,000 (all figures exclude buyer’s premium unless otherwise stated) against pre-sales estimates of $1,036,460,000 to $1,368,460,000. The evening sale season marginally broke the previous record set in May 2014, by $5.8 million or 0.5%. With two historic sales records established in 2014, this year’s total sales figures based on New York evening sales are 24% higher than 2013.

Christie’s came out as the clear leader again this season with record total sales of $751.6 million (all prices are excluding buyer’s premium), which was 14% higher than the previous record set 6 months ago. The auction house accounted for 68.7% of the total evening sales value (up from 60.3% in May 2014). Sotheby’s raised $299.1 million, 6% lower than the sales results from May 2014. Sotheby’s market share this season was 27.3%, down from 29.2% in May 2014. Christie’s market dominance did also impact Phillips this season, which only managed to raise $43.9 million from its evening sales, considerably lower than the $114.8 million they raised in May 2014. This result was Phillips’ lowest New York evening sale total since May 2010.

The top 20 artists raised $913 million from the three evening sales, and accounted for 83.4% of the total sales value. This reflects the current market concentration, and the strong dependence on these artists to generate sales.

It looks as if the art auction market has found a new addiction: a heavy reliance on financial guarantees to convince sellers to depart with their treasured objects. The question is whether this is a sign of confidence or a sign of desperation. The report includes a new section looking at the extent of these guarantees, and the potential risks ahead.