Colin Gleadell does some number crunching on the New York sales—and a little sleuthing.
On the number crunching side, Gleadell points out that the aggregate low estimate of this year’s combined New York sales is “$1.35 billion, which would be a drop of 42.5 per cent” from last year’s $2.35bn realized. That 40% drop has been fairly consistent with 2015’s overall sales volume.
One common refrain to explain the drop has been the supposed absence of guarantees. Here Gleadell has done real yeoman’s service pointing out that of the three houses,
Christie’s, which owed its ascendancy in the market to extensive guarantee provisions, is now the most restrained with just 11 per cent of the minimum estimated value of its main Impressionist sale under guarantee, and 30 per cent of its contemporary art sale.
But uptown at Sotheby’s there’s been a renaissance of deal-making under Adam Chinn, the person who ‘owns’ the guarantee book now:
Sotheby’s, which is seeking to gain majority market share, has organised guarantees of 46 per cent of the minimum estimated value of its main Impressionist sale, and 76 per cent of its main contemporary art sale.
Christie’s has tightened the purse strings; Sotheby’s is aggressively fronting money and then backstopping it with ‘irrevocable bids.’ Phillips has done much of the same while keeping the guarantee ratio steady:
At Phillips, […] the guarantee level is at 55.5 per cent, which is consistent with its past efforts to break into this market.
The use of guarantees is clearly evolving. In many ways, guarantees are returning to their original role but that will have to wait for another post in AMMpro. In the meantime, Gleadell isn’t done.
Flagging some of the notable opportunistic sellers who are hoping to make strong profits, especially Peter Brant who has an important John Currin at Christie’s and a Basquiat at Sotheby’s, Gleadell also points to some who are trying to get out while they can:
There is, however, a whiff of hardship sales by Russian buyers, no longer the force in the market they once were, such as a late Chagall, replete with garlanded bridesmaid, violins and donkeys that was bought in 2007 for $6.9 million and is back with a $7 million estimate.
There are signs too of German selling – the unusual sight of works by German expressionists, Max Beckmann and Otto Mueller for sale in New York – to escape proposed restrictions on the export from Germany of valuable works over 50 years old.