ARTnewsletter Archive

Fall Sales Take London with Record-Breaking Totals

October has become a busy month for London salerooms. At both Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the calendar of sales was significantly expanded, resulting in overall totals that far exceeded those of last fall. This year, while the Frieze Art Fair was still in progress (Oct. 12-15), both houses held sales that were record-breaking for the season.

LONDON—October has become a busy month for London salerooms. At both Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the calendar of sales was significantly expanded, resulting in overall totals that far exceeded those of last fall. This year, while the Frieze Art Fair was still in progress (Oct. 12-15), both houses held sales that were record-breaking for the season. Adding to the upbeat atmosphere, Phillips de Pury & Company held its inaugural London sale at a 40,000-square-foot converted post office in Central London.

The main contemporary sales, apart from a single-owner sale of American and European pop art at Christie’s and the 20th-century Italian art sales, concentrated on late works by Andy Warhol (1928-87) from the 70s and 80s up to recent works by living artists. Sotheby’s and Christie’s both held charity sales in which most of the works had just been produced, some by artists never sold at auction before. The sales also were marked by the widespread inclusion of Chinese contemporary art—and, at Phillips, of contemporary design as well.

By the end of the series, which included two sales of 20th-century Italian art (see page 6), Part Two contemporary sales and two charity sales, Christie’s had amassed a total of £44 million ($81.9 million) for 462 lots; Sotheby’s, £31.4 million ($59.3 million) for 374 lots; and Phillips, £8.6 million ($15.8 million) for 71 lots. Every sale exceeded its high estimate, 55 auction records were claimed, and unsold percentages averaged approximately 12 percent.

A year-ago October, Christie’s contemporary art sale realized £6 million ($10.6 million), while Sotheby’s sale, held after the close of Frieze on Oct. 25, took in £9.3 million, or $16.4 million. (Last year’s Italian art sales totals were: Christie’s, £12.8 million, or $22.7 million; and Sotheby’s, £9.7 million, or $17.2 million [ANL, 11/8/05, p. 1]).

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