ARTnewsletter Archive

New Pricing Levels Fuel Bidding at London Sales

The auctions of Postwar and contemporary art held June 25–July 1, including part-two sales, realized a total of £70 million ($112 million) for 657 lots, within the estimate of £60.5 million/86.5 million.

LONDON—The auctions of Postwar and contemporary art held June 25–July 1, including part-two sales, realized a total of £70million ($112million) for 657 lots, within the estimate of £60.5million/86.5million. Sotheby’s took in a total of £34.3 million ($54.8 million); Christie’s, £28.4 million ($45.4million); and Phillips de Pury & Company, £7.4 million ($11.8 million). The result was a drop in sales volume of 73 percent from last summer’s £262.2million ($522.4million) total, and a 50 percent drop in lots, from 1,311 last summer. Such declines are no longer anything new, however; the more apt comparison is with last February’s London sales, in which sales volume was just £42.8million ($57.9million) for 462 lots. The increase in lots offered and the amount taken in may be a sign that, as Christie’s CEO Edward Dolman said, “the bottom has already been reached.” Last February sales fell 83 percent from the year before; in May in New York they fell by 76 percent, and in June by 73 percent. Year-over-year comparisons will become more relevant as signs of recovery next fall, with the October London sales and the November New York sales. It was significant that Sotheby’s and Christie’s had more lots in their evening sales this season, and more works by such art-boom favorites as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Richard Prince. Though prices for those artists have fallen, estimates generally proved correct.

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