This analysis of the 13-year analysis of February Impressionist & Modern Art Evening sales was made possible with data from our friends at Pi-eX. [Please Note: These charts are ONLY for Impressionist and Modern Evening Sales and do not include Single-Owner sales like last week’s Wallace collection at Christie’s.] It is available to AMMpro subscribers. Subscriptions begin with a free month for the curious.
Although the Impressionist and Modern Evening sales were lopsided toward Christie’s, both houses closed the week happy with their results. That seems to be part of a larger strategy to reduce the size of these sales and continue to increase the sell-through rate across the board in the industry.
The number of lots sold in London (exempting the works in the Hidden Treasures sale) were the fewest in a decade. This continues a trajectory of smaller Imp-Mod sales (by lot) that began in the peak year of 2014 and has steadily fallen over six years.
On the value side, the contraction started later but has been just as steady and sharp. By later, we mean either the peak happening in 2015 and the decline in value starting in 2017 (if you set aside the deep contraction in 2016.)
Looking at the sales on an aggregate level, we can see the majority of the February sales cycles were reasonably well-estimated (again, bracketing out the sudden drop in 2016.) Here the results are quite different. The fewest number of lots might have sold in a decade but the value of these sales, while low and below the average of the last ten years, did not reach the lowest levels. That distinction was reserved for 2011 and, even, 2016. This year’s February Evening sales were not far off in value from respectable performances in years like 2012 and within a range with a boom year like 2008 or the anomaly of 2010 when a Giacometti sculpture sold for an expected £65m or a substantial portion of the overall sales volume. On the average lot performance, we see that the last three years have performed at almost the exact same rate within the estimate range. Prior to 2016, average sales levels were consistently rising even if the average estimates were more volatile. After 2016, the category has shown consistently falling average prices for these events.