The South China Morning Post magazine’s Enid Tsui followed up on Christie’s recent report of its 2016 sales with some questions for CEO Guillaume Cerutti and Global President Jussi Pylkkanen.
What she found was the beating heart of the top end of the art market right now. Asian buyers are approximately one third of Christie’s global business :
In Asia […] total sales came to about US$1.6 billion, up sharply from the US$734 million recorded in 2015. This figure suggests that Asian buyers are spending a lot more in auctions outside Hong Kong and perhaps on private sales: transactions arranged by Christie’s but which the auctioneer keeps quiet about. These two categories have made Asian sales proportionally more significant than ever – a record 31 per cent of Christie’s total sales.
Perhaps more important, Asian buyers are moving away from auction and toward the more efficient private market. Tsui reports that the much-touted ‘Loaded Brush’ exhibition, the last presided over by Brett Gorvy, saw 70% of the works sold. There must be a caveat on that report simply because Gorvy has already muddied the waters by telling Bloomberg the lead lot was sold to an American (and for a price that was inflated for the press):
Art market specialists have told [Tsui] they have witnessed a sharp growth in undisclosed private sales in Asia and that those sales account for more than half of secondary market transactions.
Nevertheless, Tsui reports that Cerutti stands by a figure of 15% of overall sales coming from Asian private buyers. Let’s not pass over that statement too quickly. Cerutti is telling us that half of the sales to Asian buyers are private sales.
Finally, Tsui also has this very interesting report about expanding the categories and types of work that Christie’s might bring to its semi-annual Asian sales in Hong Kong.
There have been discussions about adding categories to the spring and autumn auctions in Hong Kong and the company is ready to facilitate more sales of Western art in Asia, says Pylkkänen. “Asian bidders are the energy in the market right now,” he adds.
Asia proves to be bright spot for auction houses in lacklustre year (South China Morning Post)