Just hours before bidding begins at its New York headquarters on York Avenue this evening, Sotheby’s posted a $25.9 million loss for the first quarter of 2016—the same quarter during which, a year ago, it announced a net income of $5.2 million.
In a press release, the company attributed the net losses during this period to a 35 percent decrease in sales and a 33 percent decrease in commissions compared to the same period last year, when a few unusually strong sales—single-family and mixed-family auctions in London, as well as Asian Art sales in New York—occurred during the first few months of 2015. Most of the auction house’s sales come in the second and fourth quarters of the year, anchored (hopefully) by marquee events such as tonight’s Impressionist and modern art evening sale.
“The most significant indicators on the current state of the market will come in the next two weeks of auctions in New York and Geneva,” said Sotheby’s CEO, Tad Smith. “We are cautiously optimistic about these sales.”
In February Sotheby’s posted an $11 million loss for the fourth quarter of 2015, with the news coming after sputtering fall sales, high-profile departures, and a costly buyout plan that gutted the office of 80 employees. In the midst of this tumult, the auction house announced it would plunk down up to $85 million acquiring Art Agency, Partners—and former Christie’s chairman of postwar and contemporary, Amy Cappellazzo, along with it. The expensive acquisition was seen, by some, to be risky.
The first major sales since the company-wide reshuffling will be the auctions during the May sales week in New York, starting with tonight’s Imp-mod sale.