Sotheby’s said it is expecting to bring in $8 billion in sales for 2022, a record high for the auction house as it plans to expand its foothold outside in Asia.
An increase of less than 10 percent over the $7.3 billion figure it reported last year, it’s also far beyond pre-pandemic figures, with the house reporting $4.8 billion in sales for 2019.
This latest figure suggests the market is in solid condition, despite a variety of economic hurdles.
Some $6.4 billion came in through art and luxury auctions in New York, Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Geneva—only a small increase from the $6 million made last year through public sales. The remaining $1.1 billion was in private sales, continuing a downward trend for these kinds of auctions at Sotheby’s. The house brought in $1.3 billion in private sales in 2021, and $1.5 billion the year prior, when the pandemic forced art buyers to spend outside public sales.
Sotheby’s announced that it would continue to focus on its presence in Asia, even as it reported that growth in the region had stagnated.
Hong Kong–based sales accounted for $1.1 billion of the house’s sale total, a figure that matches its 2021 total, the house said. The region’s bidders account for 30 percent of all bid value, on par with years past.
Still, Sotheby’s aims to further cement its foothold in the region by establishing a new location at Landmark Chater in Hong Kong in 2024. There, the house is planning to host auctions and exhibitions in a 24,000-square-foot gallery space. Galleries in Tokyo and Shanghai are expected to open in 2023, Sotheby’s added.
According to Sotheby’s, across its global sales, 68 percent of bidders who bought, bid, or sold with the auction house were based in Asian countries. The auction house saw the number of clients bidding from the region contract, with bidders from Asian locales accounting for more than 20 percent of all bidders this year. That figure is down from the 30 percent registered in both 2021 and 2020.
Modern and contemporary art, the area that remains the top generator of profit for Sotheby’s, made $3 billion for the house across its auction and private sale channels. Single-owner sales helped the 280-year-old firm reach new heights this year. Those sales, which included the art holdings of cosmetic and real-estate moguls Ron Perelman and Harry Macklowe, brought in $800 million.
In a statement, Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart attributed the solid annual results to a dynamic in the market where canonical trophy works are favored, calling the trend a “flight to quality.” The house cited an ongoing demand for emerging artists as another factor driving up the yearly figures. Auctions done its “Now” evening sale format, dedicated to art produced the last two decades by artists with rising markets, has seen bullish demand in its three editions, raking in $244 million since its launch in November of last year.
Women artists with commercial appeal are a newer area of focus for Sotheby’s. The house said that overall, the number of works produced by women artists that have sold for prices above $1 million has increased by 70 percent since 2019.
The house’s luxury division, which sells wine, jewelry, cars, and clothing, also saw a record yearly high, selling more than $2 billion worth of objects, and doubling its result from last year.