The value of works offered in the 2005 to 2009 American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s varied widely between quarters (Fig. 3). [private_subscriber][private_bundle]
The Q1 and Q3 sales were dominated by lots estimated to bring less than $50,000, whereas the Q2 and Q4 sales were comprised of lots expected to fetch at least $50,000 and only rarely less than $5,000. Last year, the performances in Q1, Q2 and Q3 all fell to five year lows (Fig. 4).
Although Q2 took the most dramatic dive, Q1 saw the worst results relative to its 2005 performance. Q1’s overall buy-in rate increased from 10.6% in 2005 to 37.7% in 2009, and its average price fell by 33%. The decrease in the average price of Q1 lots is a result of a threefold increase in offerings from the lowest value band. This kind of price defl ation typically increases the lots sold. Such was the case in the contemporary market.
In the American market, however, low-value lots experienced a dramatic rise in buy-in rates. (Fig. 5).
In 2005, all 17 of the works offered in the $0 to $5,000 range sold, while in 2009, 25 of the 54 lots offered in this range did not. Despite the poor showing by lots $5,000 and under last year, the houses did not trim them from the 2010 sales. In fact, they have added several more. The relatively unchanged value distribution of this year’s Q1 sales (the only major difference is that five lots over $50,000 are offered, versus 11 last year) suggests that the houses are banking on a rebound in the lower value market, a result that would certainly buck the trend. [/private_subscriber][/private_bundle]