Art Market Analysis

In order to operate with more caution Artemundi is continuously interested in analyzing the art market with our own means. Here are some free downloadable reports useful to anyone interested in the art market.


David Hockney’s artwork $90.3 M (with buyer’s premium) at auction, fetched a new record for a living artist, leaving in dust the previous record held by Jeff Koons and his Balloon Dog (Orange), which sold for $58.4 million at Christie's in 2013. Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) was snapped up after more than 9 min of bidding, dominated by two rival telephone bidders.

The big-picture auction season started in New York with Christie’s Evening Sale with a rather underwhelming Impressionist and Modern sale that garnered a tepid $279.3M. The tally fell shy of the low end of pre-sale expectations that the auction would net somewhere between $304.7M - $439.6M.

Sotheby’s uninspired October sales were hidden behind Banksy’s prank for the last lot which “self-destructed” before everyone’s eyes after selling for the triple low estimate at £1,042,000. The rest of the 39 lots barely reached its pre-sale low estimate of £34.6M, the lowest figure in a multiple-owner sale in over 5 years. The stunt apparently orchestrated by the elusive street artist was supposedly a surprise for Sotheby’s: “We had no prior knowledge of this event and were not in any way involved.”

Sotheby’s and Phillips Post-war & Contemporary Evening auctions in London was 58.7% higher than June 2017 and second highest total for the two auction houses since June 2015. It is evident that both auction houses benefitted from Christie’s absence from the evening sale schedule.

Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern sale offered 36 lots, including works by major players including Picasso, Chagall, Monet, and Giacometti. Although only 26 were sold, –resulting in a BI of 28%–, 14 of the lots were secured by guaranteed buyers, making up a staggering 75% of the overall profits. One of the biggest limps was Picasso’s painting of Marie-Thérèse Walter guaranteed by a third party.

The mood at Phillips and Christie's could not have been more different from the Modern and Impressionist Sale. A handful of big lots were either withdrawn, failed to generate bids or had consignors too stiff-necked to take advantage their best opportunities. Sotheby’s biggest lots held little drama selling on few bids but there was a steady stream of unanticipated, dogged competition that repeatedly perked up the room and revived interest for new artist in the Evening catalogue such as Jonas Wood, John Chamberlain, Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Kerry James Marshall.

Christie's chalked up $1.79 billion in sales, including every single item from the iconic collection of the late David and Peggy Rockefeller which, for the first time, spread their flagship May sales across two weeks. Equally positive, Sotheby's sold $859 million, including $157.2 million for a Modigliani nude: the most expensive lot of the season.

Christie’s £137 million Evening auction (including buyer’s fees) broke the record for a Contemporary sale in Europe. With only 5 of the 65 offered lots failed to sale, Christie’s London team fetched an excellent BI rate of 8%.

Christie’s kicked off the 2018 auction season with its Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale which offered 65 lots and achieved £114,103,000 without premium. This total barely made through its pre-sale low estimate by +2% and had a BI of 22%.

Christie’s pulled off its second-highest total for an Impressionist and Modern evening sale last night, 13 November, in New York. The $479.3m total (with fees) was double that of last year's sale. The evening’s top lot was van Gogh’s Laboureur dans un champ, painted in early September 1889. The dazzling landscape sold -without a guarantee- at $72 million, coming to $81 million with fees, one million shy of the artist’s record.

The Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening sale at Christie’s New York yesterday, realized a mammoth sale $786 Million and the blockbuster Salvator Mundi accounted for a disproportionately large share (57%) of the total sales About 42.9% (21) artworks sold above the high estimate and a significant number of artworks (39 %) sold above the high estimate The rest, 18.4 % artworks sold below the low estimate.

Sotheby's contemporary sale’s total of £50.3 million, including buyer’s premium, was the highest-ever total for a Sotheby’s auction during Frieze Week. But four of the 47 lots were withdrawn, two of which were announced before the sale, possibly an indication of sellers’ last-minute jitters, but over 88% of the remaining lots sold. The night had several pleasant surprises, including a record for Josef Albers, which estimates of £700,000 - £1,000,000 was heavenly surpassed +171% at a final sale of £2,540,000.

The over-arching concern about the Contemporary art sales in London this week was whether Christie's departure would destabilize the market. If uncertainty hung over the summer season in London after Christie’s decision to pull its contemporary June sales, Sotheby’s managed to find its footing with a solid auction last night (28 June). The house took £52.6m (£62.4m with fees) against an estimate of £44.3m-£60.6m.

The second season of sales in London kicked off with a £149.4 million ($191.7 million) Impressionist and modern art evening sale in Christie's, with the house ably finding buyers for all but two of the 32 lots on offer, en route to a sell-through rate of 94 percent. That’s a marked improvement over the equivalent sale last year, when a slew of withdrawn lots led to a calamitous auction that totaled just £25.6 million ($32.8 million), the lowest haul for the event since the peak of the financial crisis.

Works by Francis Bacon and Cy Twombly each sold for more than $50 million at Christie's Post War and Contemporary art auction, helping drive a $448 million sale that met expectations in an uncertain political environment. Of the 71 lots on offer virtually all found buyers, with only three going unsold. The sale's total nipped at the high pre-sale estimate of $463 million.

The New York auctions began with an Impressionist and modern evening sale at Christie’s Rockefeller Center salesroom that totaled $289 million, handily eclipsing its low estimate of $207 million and falling just short of its $307 million high estimate. Constantin Bancusi’s La muse endormie (1909–10), which sold for $57.4 million to a buyer on the other end of a cell phone clutched in the center of the room by former Sotheby’s rainmaker Tobias Meyer.

The contemporary art market has proved itself immune to the perceived threats of Brexit and the election of President Donald Trump, judging by Sotheby’s performance during its Contemporary Art Evening Auction.

Despite the current sense of uncertainty, it seems that the art world will be hoping it is business as usual, or perhaps even a better market for investment-grade for high-quality artworks, such as the ones that were offered at the past Surrealist auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Any lingering doubts about the strength of the art market vanished this season at London's Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sales this week, which raised a total of £307,048,100 (including Buyer's premium). The total between Sotheby's and Christie's was 87% higher than in the same season in 2016, and 108.9% above the June results last year.

Auction house Sotheby's offered over 200 lots on its Latin American art sale, including Frida Kahlo's Niña con Collar, an early painting whose whereabouts had been a mystery for 60 years, which was sold for $1.81 million.  Leading the sale was Tamayo's Sandías y naranja, a 1957 oil and sand on canvas once owned by the film star Audrey Hepburn, which was sold for $2.29 million. A Botero bronze sculpture, Man on a Horse, fetched $1.82 million, and his Homage to Bonnard, a large-scale nude painting, went for $1.39 million. The auction comprising the Evening and the Day Sessions totaled $21,047,375 usd.

By the numbers, Sotheby’s evening November 14 sale of Impressionist and Modern art brought $157.7 million, down from last year’s $306.7 million, and the number of lots was a bit lower (42 this year as compared to 47 in 2015) while the percentage of sales was a bit higher (81%, as compared to 76 % last year). The evening’s sole star was the cover lot, Edvard Munch’s Pikene pa broen (Girls on the Bridge) from 1902, went for $54,487,500 (unpublished estimate in excess of $50 million). 

Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York totaled $276.6 million with 93.8% of lots sold with a surprisingly low BI rate of 6%. Gerhard Richter's A B, Still triumphed at $34 million, with a selection of works from the Stephen & Ann Ames Collection bringing a total of $122.8 million. Rounding out the night, Andy Warhol's Self-Portrait (Fright Wig) achieved the highest total this week for a work by the artist at $24.4 million.

Rebuffing speculation that the bottom has dropped out of the market for young and emerging artists. Speculation continues as to whether Brexit will harm or help the London trade, but the consensus is that foreigners were incentivized to bid at this week’s auctions as the pound slumped to a 31-year low. Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips all noted strong bidding from Asia, the U.S., and Europe. All in all it was a reassuring week for the trade in London, with many noting the market is moving in the right direction.

Financial markets may be fluctuating in the wake of the Brexit vote, but the art market showed its durability at Sotheby’s 28 June Contemporary Art Evening sale. Two artist records led the auction – Jenny Saville’s monumental Shift brought £6.8 million and Keith Haring’s The Last Rainforest which realised £4.2 million. Bidding was strong and competitive from the sale’s opening lots, notably Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets (£677,000) and a buoyant Alexander Calder mobile (£1.7 million). 

Helena Newman had plenty to smile about after Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Evening. The strong £103m ($152M) total midway between estimates was surely one reason. Amedeo Modigliani’s Jeanne Hebuterne (au foulard) (1919) had been initially guaranteed by the house, though this was later changed to an irrevocable bid (a type of third-party guarantee). This proved unnecessary, however, as protracted bidding saw the work sell for £34.3m (£38.5m with fees), again, well above its estimate of more than £28m. 

A selection of artworks has gone under the hammer this week as part of Spring Latin American sales in New York, with paintings by Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo among the top lots. Auction house Sotheby's offered around 200 lots on Tuesday, including Tamayo's El Fisgón, which final sale for $970,000 failed to reach its low estimate of $1 million. Another attraction at the same auction was the 1973 painting El Emperador by Chilean artist Claudio Bravo, an example of hyperrealism that also failed its low estimate and sold for $910,000.

The London auction season opened with a low-key yet reassuring result, as Christie’s "Impressionist and Modern Art" evening sale delivered £66,430,000. Small-scaled works seemed to be the flavor of the evening as Alberto Giacometti’s 11-inch high bronze Femme debout, from a posthumous 1976 cast, made £1,082,500, and the 16 by 13-inch Fernand Léger oil on canvas Le moteur, a mini tour-de-force from 1918, snared £5,234,500.

Gigaweek opened with teaser sales. Christie’s, Sotheby's and Phillips made sure that their respective events went well. Phillips, which guaranteed more than half of its lots, may have backed up that success with its investment in the art. Sunday night’s twentieth-century and contemporary art evening sale at Phillips auction house brought in $46.5 million.

The London auction season opened with a low-key yet reassuring result, as Christie’s "Impressionist and Modern Art" evening sale delivered £66,430,000. Small-scaled works seemed to be the flavor of the evening as Alberto Giacometti’s 11-inch high bronze Femme debout, from a posthumous 1976 cast, made £1,082,500, and the 16 by 13-inch Fernand Léger oil on canvas Le moteur, a mini tour-de-force from 1918, snared £5,234,500.

The Contemporary art evening sale at Sotheby's auction house realised a final total of £69,461,000 with a BI of 27% from the 59 artworks offered. The sale was led by Lucian Freud’s tender portrait of his lover Bernadine Coverley, pregnant at the time with their daughter Bella. The 1960-61 work was pursued by six bidders and sold for £16.1 million, more than £9 million above the pre-sale low estimate and a new record for an early painting by the artist.

Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale on November 6th, 2015 featured a broad array of pictures, works on paper and sculpture by the leading artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Highlights included an oil portrait of a bather by Paul Cézanne which was once owned by Paul Signac, a 1906 Fauve picture by Raoul Dufy from a distinguished Asian collection, a monumental port scene by André Lhote from a private collection in Scandinavia, and an extremely rare and widely published oil by Heinrich Campendonk from the collection of Jules and Gladys Reiner.

The Contemporary Art Day Auction at Sotheby's totaled $98,025,250 with 80% of lots sold. The sale was led by Roy Lichtenstein's Modern Painting with Yellow Interweave from 1967 which sold for $3.4 million, and Heat by Kenneth Noland, which set a new record for the artist at auction selling for $3.3 million. A Cy Twombly blackboard painting, Untitled (New York City), was the top lot in the Contemporary Art Evening Auction selling for $70.5 million, and is also the most expensive work sold at Sotheby's worldwide in 2015.

Alfred Taubman's estate auction launched unsuccessfully last night. The eclectic collection once belonged to the magnate who resigned from his chairman’s role in 2000 amid a price-fixing scandal between Christie’s and Sotheby’s. . This precedent affected significantly the perceived value of the auctioned artworks, despite the fact that twelve pages of the catalogue tried to "clean" the moral character of the collectionist.

The total amount sold in Post-War and Contemporary Auctions including the Italian Art sales was $336,378,719 USD, corresponding 41.4% to Christie’s, 41.3% Sotheby’s and 17.2% to Phillips. The auctions were held parallel to Art Frieze and Frieze Masters in London in mid October. The noteworthy results correspond to the Italian art sales held in both mayor auction houses, the total sold surpassed the total from the evening sales and many price records were established. These two sales added $129,313,364; a 17% increase from last October’s Italian Sale, indicating a growing demand for this specific art market.

The total amount sold was $669,087,875 USD; 9.5% above last May’s auctions and 0.5% below last November’s sales. Despite being less than half of the Post-War and Contemporary Sales, the total achieved remained in the markets’ total average from the last couple of years. From this total, Sotheby’s sold 63% and Christie’s 37%. In general, the unsold rate of 23% was in line with the market’s average, in total 769 artworks were offered for sale and 590 found buyers.

The total amount sold in Post-War and Contemporary Auctions was $2,060,717,775 USD; 42.4% above last May’s auctions and 40% above last November’s sales. This has been the highest total for an auction season in this art category. The result was 208% above the total achieved at the Impressionist and Modern Art sales. Christie’s sales accounted for 71% of the sales while Sotheby’s share was considerably lower at 23% and Phillips maintained its position with almost 6%. The outstanding result was due to the very high-end market, 23 lots were sold above 20 million dollars and 202 surpassed the million-dollar threshold.