ARTnewsletter Archive

Contemporary Art Surges Forward at Summer Sales

Sales of Postwar and contemporary art at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips, de Pury & Company in London June 29–July 2 totaled £262.2 million ($522.4 million), up from £221.6 million ($441.5 million) the previous year.

NEW YORK—Sales of Postwar and contemporary art at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips, de Pury & Company in London June 29–July 2 totaled £262.2 million ($522.4 million), up from £221.6 mil¬lion ($441.5 million) the previous year. The houses noted considerable jumps in sale volume across the board, and there was no shortage of demand for high-priced trophy artworks, as the contemporary-art market continues to shrug off the weakness and volatility currently weighing on financial markets around the world. This was the first time all three auction houses held a standalone week of contemporary sales separate from the Impressionist and modern art auctions in London. The two weeks combined fetched a record £550 million ($1.1 billion).

Sotheby’s led the field, posting total sales of £121.5 mil¬lion ($242.3 mil¬lion), up from £97 mil¬lion ($193.3 million) the year before, and setting new records for artists including Antony Gormley, Bridget Riley, Richard Prince and Anish Kapoor. Christie’s reported sales of £108.7 mil¬lion ($216.7 mil¬lion), higher than the £98.9 million ($196.6 million) total of last summer. Christie’s also sold the most expensive lot of the week, Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies for Self-Portrait, 1975, for £17.3 mil¬lion ($34.5 mil¬lion). Phillips reported total sales of £32 mil¬lion ($63.5 mil¬lion)—including £1.2 mil¬lion ($2.5 million) for the Lewis Kaplan sale—up from the £23.3 mil¬lion ($46.6 mil¬lion) total last year.

“I was very pleasantly surprised by the sales,” Dominique Lévy, a partner in New York’s L&M Arts, told ARTnewsletter, not so much for the strong prices for individual masterpieces, but “for the much broader range of bidding at London sales” compared with that at the recent New York auctions. The sales “proved that for quality work, buyers are there.”

  • Issues