Continued global demand and creative sale planning helped to drive a rise in Christie’s auction sales to £2.2 billion ($2.8 billion, up 14 per cent) in the first half of 2017, a 29 per cent increase from the same period in 2016. Overall sales were £2.35 billion ($3 billion, up 1 per cent), an increase of 14 per cent compared to £2.1 billion worth of sales in the first half of 2016.
‘Christie’s continues to lead the auction market,’ commented Guillaume Cerutti, Chief Executive Officer, after half-year figures also showed there was an increase in the number of works sold over £10 million. Christie’s sold 38 lots that surpassed this figure, compared to 14 from the same period last year. There was also a 29 per cent increase in the number of new buyers over £1 million.
Collectors continue to seek diverse works of art across price levels and categories. Demand for masterpieces has continued, with seven of the ten top lots from the first half of 2017 having been sold at Christie’s. Auction sell-through rates across all lots bands, meanwhile, increased to 81 per cent.
Total spend online was £75.3 million ($95.8 million) for the first half of the year, when combining the totals for Christie’s LIVE, £55.5 million ($70.6 million), and online-only sales, which remained stable at £19.8 million ($25.2 million). Online-only sales continue to attract the largest number of new buyers (29 per cent). Sell-through rates by lot for sales online rose to 81 per cent and the average price per lot increased to $7,222.
Growth in spend was seen across each region, with clients based in America accounting for 35 per cent of sale value, Asian clients accounting for 35 per cent and EMERI (Europe, Middle East, Russia and India) clients 30 per cent.
Clients from Asia spent 39 per cent more at Christie’s in the first half of 2017. Client spend from the Americas and EMERI was also up 38 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.
There was a 90 per cent increase in spending on Asian Art from Asian clients, due in part to the record-breaking sales of Asian Art in New York in March. Asian buying was also significant in Decorative Arts and Impressionist and Modern Art, with more than 20 per cent of the lots in the London Impressionist and Modern Art sale bought by clients from Asia.
‘Activity from Asian buyers has reached a new high, demonstrating Christie’s strength in this part of the world,’ confirmed Guillaume Cerutti. ‘We are encouraged by these results, and continue to adapt our operations to the new international context with the opening of our new flagship premises in Los Angeles.
‘We look forward to a strong second half of 2017 and beyond, with preparations beginning for the Rockefeller sale in the spring of 2018.’
Selected highlights from the first half of 2017
Impressionist and Modern and Post-War and Contemporary Art: Highlights have included Constantin Brancusi’s La muse endormie (sold in New York for $57,367,500), Max Beckmann’s Hölle der Vögel (sold in London for £36,005,000) and Cy Twombly’s Leda and the Swan (sold in New York for $52,887,500).
Luxury: Luxury Week sales continue to perform well, with 29 per cent of new buyers engaging with the Luxury category (Jewellery, Watches, Wine and Handbags). Christie’s in Geneva set a new record for any heart-shaped diamond sold at auction, realising SFr14,767,50 / $14,989,012 (price per carat $163,016), and Christie’s in New York set a new auction record of $305,000 per carat with The Rockefeller Emerald, which realised $5,511,500.
Asian Art: Asian Art Week in New York in March achieved the highest total for an art auction series in the category, realising $332,783,188 / HK$2,573,500,630. The highlight of the week was the record-breaking evening sale of Important Chinese Art from the Fujita Museum, which alone achieved $262,839,500.
Asian Art Week in London in May saw a magnificent pair of famille rose 'butterfly' vases sold for £14,725,000 / $19,054,150. Christie’s Hong Kong Spring sales in May totalled HK$2,446,964,634 / $315,658,926. The top lot of this sale season was the world-record breaking 29.09.64 by Zao Wou-Ki, which sold for HK$152,860,000 / $19,712,015 — more than three times the high estimate.
Decorative Arts & Design: Sales across Christie’s saw a 19 per cent increase in new buyers transacting between £5,000 and £1 million. The highlight in the first half of 2017 was the sale of Diego Giacometti furniture from the collection of Hubert Givenchy held in Paris in March, which achieved a total of €32,748,500 / £28,157,160, and saw 100 per cent of the lots sold above their pre-sale estimate.