The graph below shows the totals for the New York Impressionist & Modern Evening sales over a nine year period beginning in 2001 up to this week. You can see from the graph that the final bar is smallest since May 2003. [We missed the gargantuan Greentree sale, where the $100 million Picasso sold–in an earlier compilation. So we’ve corrected the graph.] In May 2003, the overall average lot value was $2.6 million vs. a combined average lot value of $2.4 million this week.
Compared to the last few years the total looks puny but in the context of the first few years of the century, the sale totals would have been on the low end but well within the range of a normal market for what was then a decent climate for buying and selling art. So let’s look at this week’s evening sales in that context. In the chart below you can see May 2009 as the final bar on the graph. The 2001-2003 period was the previous recession. So this is a good period to compare. On that basis, the market his holding up well in terms overall volume and relatively well on the average price. Though factoring in a little bit of inflation over the six intervening years would change that a little bit.