This detailed analysis of the November Contemporary Evening sales over the last 12 years was provided by our friends at Pi-eX. It is available to AMMpro subscribers. Subscriptions begin with a free month for the curious.
Our friends at Pi-eX have put together their analysis for the Contemporary Evening sales. The results, which need to take into account the large lump of the Leonardo that was sold fro $450m last year during a Contemporary Evening sale, show the Contemporary evening sales gaining ground slightly but at a controlled pace.
First, let’s look at the sold lots in New York by value over the last 12 November Evening sales of Contemporary art. You can see that the Contemporary market peaked in 2014. Remember that these numbers do not include curate sales which emerged in 2015 and had some impact on the market.
Pi-eX also annotated the sales by guarantee with third-party guarantees represented in light blue and direct auction house guarantees shown in red. Without direct guarantees, the market would have peaked in 2013 instead of 2014. Starting in 2016, third-party guarantees began to play a central role in the November results. Over these three years, the volume of third party guarantees was the greatest of any period during the previous dozen years.
Turning to the auction performance, we can see that the same three years show uncommon consistency in the estimates and results for works with estimates. The black diamonds in the chart below show the volume of sales with works offered with estimate upon request. The gold circle represents the overall sales of estimated lots. Notice the static level of sales over the last three years. The dramatic change in the Contemporary art market mid-2015 has never been sufficiently explained. By 2016, conventional wisdom is that the political uncertainty had created a market wariness for works sold at the top of the art market.Whatever the cause, the market eras are clearly delineated in these charts, at least for the category Contemporary art sales. The average lot performance shows a different story with prices in a more compressed range (these are for estimated lots only.) This year’s sales brings the average lot price back to the level of the 2012.
As the global macroeconomic environment moves toward tighter credit, it remains to be seen whether this level is a peak or a way station toward even higher levels matching or exceeding the liquidity induced highs of 2013 and 2014.
The final chart from Pi-eX which balances the volume of art work sold above the the low estimate against the dollar volume of work that was bought in. Here you can see the impact of third-party guarantees modulating the market. From 2015 to 2018 there’s a steady balance of lots that saw competitive bidding versus lots that were bought in. It would appear that the increased use of third-party guarantees has closed the range of sales as the market is managed more.