ARTnewsletter Archive

London Contemporary Sales Leave Past Records Behind

The contemporary art market continued its unflagging expansion in February. Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s achieved their highest totals ever for contemporary art sales in London, leaving 1989 boom figures in the dust.

LONDON—The contemporary art market continued its unflagging expansion in February. Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s achieved their highest totals ever for contemporary art sales in London, leaving 1989 boom figures in the dust.

Christie’s £37 million ($64.5 million) Part One sale came out on top with all but 4 of the 62 lots on offer sold, against a presale low estimate of £20.6 million. In two secondary sales the house added another £10.7 million ($18.6 million). Overall Christie’s took £47.7 million ($83.3 million) for contemporary art, with only 5.7 percent of its 324 lots unsold. The buyer profile for the Part One sale: U.K. and European, 66 percent of the lots; American, 30 percent; Asian, 2 percent; and Middle Eastern, 2 percent.

Sotheby’s followed with a £30.4 million ($53 million) Part One sale, selling all but 2 of the 62 lots offered, against a presale low estimate of £16.9 million. In two further sales Sotheby’s added another £11.6 million ($20.1 million), bringing its total for the series to £42 million ($73 million), with 12 percent of the 476 lots unsold. The bought-in rate increased significantly with the house’s large sale of low-value lots held at its Olympia outpost. The buyer profile for the Part One sale: U.K. and European, 64 percent of the lots; American, 28 per cent; and Asian, 8 percent.

The overall total for both Christie’s and Sotheby’s was £89.7 million ($156.1 million), in contrast with last February’s high of £54 million ($100.4 million). Contemporary art sales for the entire 1989-90 annual London season totaled approximately £60 million ($90 million), according to the Art Sales Index report at the time.

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