Complex Made Simple

Auction house Christie’s continues to lead art market

Continued global demand, audience engagement with the diversity of collecting categories and the historic Rockefeller sales helped drive a 26% rise in Christie’s overall sales to almost $4bn, up 35% compared to $3.07bn in the first half of 2017. Auction sell-through rates across all lots bands increased to 84%. Sales were up across all three selling platforms, with auction sales increasing 20% to $3.61bn, up 28%, private sales up 135% totaling $390.3m, up 151% and online-only auction sales up 40% to $37.7m, up 50%.

Guillaume Cerutti, Chief Executive Officer, commented: “It has been a record-breaking first half for Christie’s. 27% of all buyers were new to us during this period and we also achieved consistently high sell-through rates averaging 84% by lot. We are also encouraged by an array of strong consignments to offer collectors in the Autumn.

Highlights at Auction

-80% of the highest selling objects in the first half of 2018 were sold at Christie’s, with 55 lots sold over $10 million.

-Online sales attract the largest number of new buyers (40%). By category the Luxury group continues to draw the highest percentage of new clients at 29%, with Asian clients spending 10% more in this category in the first half of 2018. Decorative Arts was also the second highest entry point for new buyers (19%). The number of new buyers for lots over £1 million rose by 32%.

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-Global audiences continue to visit Christie’s both in person and virtually with Rockefeller public exhibition enjoyed by over 85,000 people around the world. To welcome new audiences to collecting, Christie’s ‘Lates’ programme gathers momentum in New York and London complementing increased digital engagement with Christie’s editorial content.

-Total spend online was $119.7m for the first half of 2018, when combining the totals for Christie’s LIVETM, $82m and online-only sales, which jumped by 40% to $37.7 million, up 50%. 47 online sales were held in the first half of 2018 including a third of the volume of lots in the Rockefeller collection being sold online. Sell-through rates by lot for sales online rose to 87% and the average price per lot was $8,483. 44% of all website traffic came from mobile devices, an increase of 19%.

-Across the board, collections achieved strong results: the celebration of the Cobra artistic movement, which was 100% sold at the new sale venue in Amsterdam; masterpieces by Richard Diebenkorn were sold to benefit the Zucker Family Foundation for $46,068,750 in New York; and the Tisch Collection selling for $107,089,100.

-As part of Christie’s continued investment in Christie’s Education celebrating its 40th year, the London faculty will relocate in September to this historic 42 Portland Place. Since the launch of online learning courses in October 2017, 18% of all students are now enrolled on this platform.

Regional and Client Activity

In the first half of 2018 American-based clients accounted for 45% of spend, Asian clients for 24% and EMERI clients for 31%; these figures reflect the engagement with the Rockefeller Collection. Auction sales by region totalled £1.57bn in the Americas, up 36% ($2.13bn, up 45%), £782.9m in Europe, Middle East, Russia and India, down 4%, ($1.06bn, up 6%) and £306.4m in Asia, up 24% ($416.7m, up 33%).

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Europe, Middle East, Russia and India

London sales were led by the Spring and Summer 20th Century sales. The March Post-War and Contemporary Art evening auction made the highest total for any auction in the category in Europe (£137,459,750, sold 92% by lot), and combined with the Impressionist and Modern sales, ensured the series was up 24% on the equivalent sales in 2017.

Claude Monet’s La Gare Saint-Lazare, vue extérieure was a highlight of the June, Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale, realising £24,983,750 in London. During the same week, the Modern British Art evening and day sales achieved the highest total for the category, realising £32,689,125, with sell-through rates for the evening sale of 94% by lot. In the Paris saleroom, eleven world auction records were set, and due to the success of the Hessel and pre-Columbian Pregogine sales, Christie’s led the sale of single-owner collections in France.

The annual Dubai sale in March marked the highest total for a watch sale in the region.

During Christie’s 60th anniversary year in Italy, the April Milan auction was 91% by lot, with Achrome by Piero Manzoni selling for €2,970,000, becoming the most expensive work of Post-War Art ever sold at auction in Italy.

The May Magnificent Jewels sale held in Geneva saw 16 lots selling for over 1 million, with the sale achieving CHF81,620,500, and the Wine auction making CHF4,290,960, the highest result in the category for 4 years, 95% sold by lot.

A new European record for a handbag was set in London in June when a 2008 Hermès, Matte White Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Birkin 30 with 18k White Gold & Diamond Hardware sold for £162,500.

Outlook for 2018

Current collection and consignment activity remains particularly strong with the outlook continuing in this vein for the second half of 2018. In London in September Christie’s will offer the first part of the visionary designer Michael S. Smith sale of Interiors, concluding in New York later that month. Christie’s three Shanghai sales will be held in September.

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