This look at the first half of 2018 market share by artist was prepared with data from Blouin Art Info. It is available to AMMpro subscribers. Monthly subscriptions begin with the first month free. Feel free to subscribe and cancel before you are billed.
Blouin Art Info has done some calculations to conclude that Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips together have sold $5.682bn in art during the first six months of 2018. It’s worth noting that Arttactic has separately released numbers that put the combined figure of the three auction houses at $6.911bn:
ArtTactic said Christie’s and Phillips have gained market share in the period: Phillips reported auction sales rose to $511.8m (£386m), up 59% from the same period a year ago, while Christie’s grew 27% to $3.6bn, and Sotheby’s rose 11.3% to $2.8bn.
We’re not here to referee between the two calculations when we can simply wait until both Sotheby’s and Christie’s release their numbers on the first half sales. For our purposes here, we can all agree that sales totals are up across the board.
As a general rule of thumb, the art market does more business in the first half of the year than the second, primarily because the first half contains more sales cycles with London hosting March and June events and New York’s Spring event often featuring the most ambitious lots.
This year saw the additional sales ‘season’ of the Rockefeller collection in New York which might further skew the sales figures toward the first half of the year. The Rockefeller estate also seems to have had a strong effect on Christie’s overall sell through percentage for the first half. This is worth noting simply because Christie’s has made a point of corporate strategy to increase sell-through rates as a way to demonstrate value to buyers. Though of the three houses, Phillips seems to have posted the best sell-through rates, no doubt a feature of their small and targeted sales.
Blouin’s numbers offer us the opportunity to run some quick market share calculations:
There’s a couple of things worth noting in these numbers. First, the Picasso market which came roaring to life in the first half has reached a sales level that would be the 2nd highest level if it were a full year. In 2015, there was more than $627m in Picasso works sold during the entire year. At $560m already tallied so far, it seems more than likely that 2018 will be Picasso’s record year for sales.
The other driver of the art market along with Picasso has traditionally been Andy Warhol. As you can see here, the public Warhol market is in hibernation. Even so, the artist has the third spot in market share with only one major work selling in the first half and making up 20% of the total sales volume. In several cases, a single work made up the bulk of the artist’s market share. That includes Modigliani, Malevich, Brancusi and, to some extent, Bacon and van Gogh.
The other noteworthy market share moves are Jean-Michel Basquiat’s status as a peer to Andy Warhol. If Basquiat’s sales stopped for the year today, it would still be his sixth best year. Without the extraordinary $110m sale of Basquiat’s untitled work in 2017, that year would have been the second best year for the artist. The previous best year having been 2013 when ~$283m in Basquiat’s work sold publicly. Given the strong performance of particular Basquiat works in the first half of 2018, there is a good chance the market will pull more significant pieces onto the auction block setting up the potential for strong follow up to 2017’s record $350m in sales volume. The Basquiat market can be very uneven so that is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Just below Basquiat on the chart is Zao Wou-ki whose work has been quietly building on the market. A very strong show in Paris cannot hurt the market momentum either. As noted in previous reports, David Hockney’s market was dramatically transformed by a major museum show. While the museum hosting the Zao Wou-ki exhibition in Paris is not nearly as prestigious as the Tate or the Met in New York, Zao’s market has far more inertia than Hockney’s did.
Equally, the huge collection of Richard Diebenkorn’s work that Christie’s did so well with in May has boosted his market to an unaccustomed level of visibility.