Christie’s Sales Volume Peaks at $7bn in Sales; Invaluable’s Auction Summit let’s thriving smaller houses celebrate; Go see the Tate’s Bonnard show; Alex Israel collaborates with Rimow
This commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
Christie’s Sells $7bn in 2018, Up 6%
The Wall Street Journal posts Christie’s 2018 sales figures. We’ll have a longer look at the numbers and Christie’s strategic goals in tomorrow’s newsletter. But for now, here’s what the Journal sales about the results:
- “Christie’s International sold $7 billion of art last year, up 6% from 2017. The London-based company said on Wednesday it auctioned $6.3 billion in art, a 6% increase due in part to the $835 million estate sale of banking billionaire David Rockefeller and his wife, Peggy. The house sold an additional $653.3 million in art in privately brokered deals, up 7%. Its online-only art sales rose 20% to $86.6 million. Rival Sotheby’s said it auctioned $5.3 billion in art over the same period, up 12% from a year earlier, and said its online-only sales tripled to $50.7 million.”
Auction House Summit Reveals a Robust Sector
Invaluable held its second Auction House Summit this week in London. The event brings together some of Invaluable’s clients to hear presentations on the market, best practices in finance, technology and marketing from outside firms and the global houses, Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips.
The panels seem to be added value as the auctioneers from as far away as the Philippines and Canada—with a very strong showing among US firms—seemed as excited for time to meet and compare notes from their own markets.
- Invaluable, an online-auction platform that works with more than 5,000 smaller houses and galleries, said its $365 million in live-auction sales last year represented an 18% bump from 2017.
We’ve been running some numbers for AMMpro subscribers that show a long-term trend at the three global auction houses toward a lower number of lots offered and sold. Further research shows that Sotheby’s and Christie’s are making a broad-based effort to reduce the number of lots they sell throughout the company and increase the sell through rates.
Previous accounts of the auction market have assumed that these lower-value lots, often in traditional categories that have fallen out of favor, are disappearing from the marketplace entirely. Invaluable’s sales figures and anecdotal evidence at the conference suggest much of this trade might be moving toward these other enterprises. Many of them are also finding innovative ways to make the selling of these kinds of objects more cost-effective and efficient.
The Tate’s Bonnard Show: an End or a Beginning
Jackie Wullschlager’s Financial Times review of the Tate Modern’s Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory show contains this observation about what the show sets out to resolve:
- “Bonnard’s confused position in art history and his magnificently fluttering images, always on the verge of dissolving into abstract shimmers and beguiling spatial puzzles. Is this artist who made the modest red-and-white tabletop his early battleground and reinvented the bather of antiquity in portraits of his wife corpse-like and submerged in the tub a late-flowering intimiste, concluding the celebration of bourgeois French domesticity begun by Chardin, or a death-obsessed claustrophobic? Bonnard once defined himself as “the last of the Impressionists”, but he painted from memory not life. With hindsight, we see him rather as pioneer of mid-20th-century energetic, all-over surfaces, while his fluttering restless images sympathetically herald postmodern ambivalence and disintegration.”
The stunning show tries to answer this by presenting a chronology of Bonnard’s evolution as a painter, his work’s connection to his personal life, relationships and physical surroundings. There’s even a remarkable room where several paintings are hung without frames replicating the painter’s habit of working canvas tacked to a wall. The small strategy creates surprisingly stark effects.
Rimowa Follows Louis Vuitton Into Art & Luggage CollaborationEarlier this week, Alex Israel revealed his collaboration with Rimowa. The instagram post followed Alexandre Arnault’s own IG post and a preview piece in the Wall Street Journal. That story tells us that Israel’s gradient colors are used for the limited edition cases. The collaboration comes after LVMH took a majority stake two years ago in the German company. Arnault is Rimowa’s CEO and the son of LVMH head Bernard Arnault. Israel claims his gradient paintings and that those have become integral to the fabric of Los Angeles:
- “It definitely comes from the sunset, from the sky, from looking up at the end of the day and taking a deep breath and appreciating that I get to live in this amazing city,” says Israel, 36. “Gradient has become part of the vernacular culture of L.A.—custom cars or airbrushed surfboards.”