ARTnewsletter Archive

London Sales Fall Short of Lofty Expectations

Contemporary art sales held June 28—July 1 brought a total of £117.4 million ($176.1 million), including lower-priced day sales and an additional Italian art and design sale at Phillips de Pury & Company.

LONDON—Contemporary art sales held June 28—July 1 brought a total of £117.4 million ($176.1 million), including lower-priced day sales and an additional Italian art and design sale at Phillips de Pury & Company. The overall presale estimate, based on hammer prices without the premium was £117 million/152 million. Based on hammer prices and estimates, not one sale reached its low estimate.

As with the Impressionist and modern art sales the week before (ANL, 6/29/10), estimates had been set in the optimistic period that followed the successful Spring sales in New York. The mood had persisted throughout Art Basel in mid-June, but had clearly changed by the time of the London sales. Overall, observers said, estimates had been set too high. A notable factor was the increased level of supply—1,134 lots compared with last June’s 657, which had brought a total of £70 million ($112 million).

While Sotheby’s and Christie’s evening sales came closest to estimates, with an average sell-through rate of 85.5 percent, the lower-value sales saw the week’s average plunge to nearer 67 percent, with Phillips’ three sales (in which 236 of 454 lots sold) showing the weakest results. Having placed the emphasis on low bought-in rates during recession-hit 2009, salerooms were anxious to increase turnover. There was a huge supply of work waiting to be sold, and too often vendors were allowed to dictate prices. Economic factors undoubtedly affected the mood, with each of the London Stock Exchange and the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling between 4 and 5 percent in the week.

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