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For all of the talk about how the Impressionist & Modern (and Surrealism) market is drying up and will soon be like the Old Master market—the occasional astonishing price for a long-held masterpiece punctuating wholesale-like distribution sales of artists known only to a few connoisseurs—the sales in London were demonstration of strength. The sales totals were very strong with combined sell-through rates of 80% which breaks down to nearly 89% across the Evening sales and a 78% for the Day sales. (These figures are for Sotheby's, Christie's and Bonhams Impressionist and Modern sales + Sotheby's and Christie's Surrealism sales.)
Even with the Klimt painting making nearly £48m, there was an absence of trophy lots that would drive the top of the market. Taken together, the top ten lots accounted for 44% of the sales total which is a relatively small proportion for a market that is supposedly driven by a few trophy lots.
As you can see from the chart that opens this report, the Evening sales merely recovered to the level of 2014 and 2015. But the day sales were stronger than 2016 but weaker than any of the other three years in the five-year cohort. We'll get to a closer look at the top lots in the day sales further down in this report. But when we do get there, the charts will show surprisingly strong day sale results.
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