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Sign of change

Christie's and Sotheby's 2018 half-year results

Art Market | The announcement of Christie’s and Sotheby’s respective results for the first semester 2018 has revealed a strong upward trend : + 35% for Christie’s with a sales volume of $4 billion, + 22% for Sotheby’s with a sales volume of $3.5 billion. Although these results are overall positive, they must be interpreted with some discernment.

La collection de Peggy et David Rockefeller, ‘‘19th and 20th Century Art‘‘ - Vente du soir à New York le 8 mai 2018 © Christie’s
La collection de Peggy et David Rockefeller, "19th and 20th Century Art" - Vente du soir à New York le 8 mai 2018
© Christie’s

Exceptional numbers

These positive results are mainly due to sales taking place in the United States, particularly for Christie’s. The British auction house made $2.13 billion in the US, which represents more than half of its sales volume (+ 45% compared to the first half of 2017). This is largely due to the dispersion of the collection Peggy et David Rockefeller ($835,111,344 - 100% sales rate) and the major New York spring sales, during which it outpaced Sotheby’s :
- $415,852,500 for the Impressionist and Modern Art sale in May 2018 (89% sales rate) compared to $318,313,600 for Sotheby’s (71% sales rate).
- $397,159,500 for the Post-War and Contemporary Art sale (91% sales rate) against $284,542,500 for Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s differs from its rival on the Asian continent, where it reached a total sale of $488 million (+ 15%) against a $416.7 million sale for Christie’s (+ 33%). As in the previous year, Sotheby’s also attained higher numbers on the private sales sector with a total of $543 million (+ 63%). However, we can also note how, after a fall of 64% in its private sales during the first half of 2017 ($155.4 million), Christie’s reached a 151% growth in this area in 2018 ($ 390.3 million).

One of the auction houses’ common points is the reinforcement of their digital platforms, which are constantly improving. Digital sales represent $119.7 million, which translates into a growth of 25% over the previous period and just over $100 million according to Sotheby’s (+ 30%).

Relative results

Despite having reached a record number of auctions exceeding $10 million - 55 for Christie’s and 35 for Sotheby’s in 2018 - we observe results below the expectations among the best sales in the first semester, particularly concerning works guaranteed by third parties :
- Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) (1917) by Amedeo Modigliani was sold for $139 million (hammer price), far from the low estimate of $150 million;
- La Fillette à la corbeille fleurie (1905) by Picasso, was sold at Christie’s for $102 million (hammer price), just above the low estimate of $ 100 million.

Conclusions

- Capitalized in the stock market, Sotheby’s has reported a 23% drop in its net income, parallel to the rise of its sales volume. This loss can be explained by the strong competition existing in the high-end art market segment and the double-edged mechanism of guaranteed sales. It is also worth noting how Sotheby’s mentioned the possibility of a reduction in headcount in an article published in The Art Newspaper.
- When it comes to Christie’s growth, we can see that in the past two years it has relied on exceptional sales : Salvator Mundi in 2017 and the Peggy and David Rockefeller collection in 2018.

Vincent Kozsilovics
Publié le 09/09/2018
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La collection de Peggy et David Rockefeller, “19th and 20th Century Art“ - Vente du soir à New York le 8 mai 2018 © Christie’s

La collection de Peggy et David Rockefeller, "19th and 20th Century Art" - Vente du soir à New York le 8 mai 2018
© Christie’s

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