Christie’s has just released the results of its worldwide sales figures for the first half of 2011. Its global take of $3.2 billion is a 25-percent increase over last year’s $2.57 billion for the same period (figures include buyer’s premium). The 2010 figure was itself a 46-percent increase from 2009.
Sales in the U.S. were actually down 13 percent, from $999.6 to $941.6 million, while Europe and the UK posted an increase of 24 percent, from $975 million to $1.3 billion.
Postwar and contemporary art sales were up 52 percent, garnering $702.6 million for the auction house, while Impressionist and modern sales decreased by 23 percent, earning $652.7 million. The categories showing the most growth were 20th-century decorative arts ($78 million, a 312-percent increase) and modern British art ($31.3 million, a 288-percent increase).
According to its earnings report, Christie’s sold eight of the top 10 lots offered in the public marketplace in the first half of 2011. They include two Warhol self-portraits ($38.4 and $27.5 million), two Francis Bacon portrait studies ($28.7 and $25.3 million), a 1961 Mark Rothko canvas ($33.7 million) and a 1939 Picasso ($29.1 million).
Not surprisingly, the largest increase came from Asia with sales totaling $482.5 million, reflecting a 48-percent increase. Buyers from mainland China dominated the wine and Asian art markets. Sales in the Middle East were up 10 percent, to $10.8 million, dominated by jewelry and watches.
The number of clients registering for sales remained steady compared to last year, but Christie’s cited a 14-percent increase in the number of clients actually making a purchase. Client lists continued to grow at their usual pace in the established regions of Europe, the U.S. and UK, China and Hong Kong. Though the BRIC countries contribute little overall activity, Christie’s saw a threefold increase in registrations from Brazil, reflecting a growing international interest in works from that region as well as a growing collector base.
Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1964. Courtesy Christie’s and Artists Rights Society.