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The London sales in March of 2017 reaffirmed the fundamental strength of the Contemporary art market, not through astounding prices or record-setting sales of the world's most famous artists but through a broad base of transactions. Although the top lot was a work by Gerhard Richter, the artist who accounts for the largest share of the Contemporary art market's public turnover these days, the sales showed continuing signs of market rotation as new names increased their value on the auction block.
The top line figures are quite healthy. Sales at Phillips, Christie's (including the Saatchi sale), Sotheby's and Bonhams totaled £276m from 750 lots sold out of 854 offered or an almost unbelievable 87.8% sell-through rate. To further underscore the broadening base of the Contemporary art market away from the eight-figure mega-trophies, the top ten lots only accounted for one third of the sales total.
Among the sold lots, 41% made price above the high estimate. That's a big number. Add the lots sold within the estimates and more than two-thirds of the sellers got the price they wanted or more. Only 16% of the lots had to compromise and take a bid below the low estimate.
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