Over the past few years, the art world has become quite used to concluding each November auction season with fresh new records, and news that the grand totals from the evenings sales of Impressionist, modern, and contemporary art exceeded those of the previous year. Together, the big three houses—Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips—totaled up $975.3 million at the evening sales in 2011, followed by $1.24 billion in 2012, $1.67 billion in 2013, and $1.995 billion in 2014. It was a strong, steady climb.
But this year the number for the evening sales pretty much leveled off, increasing by less than $20 million, to $2.014 billion. Christie’s saw its evening-sale total fall compared to last, and Sotheby’s was up only modestly. Is the boom in the upper echelon over? Is the masterpiece market poised for a full-on correction? Too soon to tell, but everyone will be watching the houses closely in the coming months. For a closer look at how the big three did over the past week in the big evenings sales compared to last years, take a look at the graph above. Click the name of each auction house to see their evening-sale total.
(Note that these totals include all Impressionist-modern and postwar-contemporary evening evening sales, including special sales. The data was compiled by Skate’s, the art-business intelligence unit of ARTnews S.A.)