This analysis the past 10 years of Second Quarter sales at the three main auction houses—Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips—was made possible with data from our friends at Pi-eX. It is available to AMMpro subscribers. Subscriptions begin with a free month for the curious.
Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Evening sale performed impressively last night pulling in numbers that bring it quite close to last year’s peak effort. These charts show just how strong the Impressionist and Modern market is in relation to the regularly scheduled sales of the last 13 years.
One reason the sales have observers yawning is not the quality of the material or the bidding but the level of estimates that no longer seem anything but quite daunting. The sales showed that there is a new level of volatility in the Impressionist and Modern market with a number of important works either not keeping up with inflation or not advancing over the nominal price paid sometimes decades ago.
Even though that is usually a reflection of the high price paid for the work originally, it does take some of the excitement out of the market not to see value advance. Nonetheless, Impressionist and Modern works of the first order tend to retain value of some kind as the $399m overall result at Christie’s Evening sale showed with the bulk of the sale made up of works from seasoned collectors.
The last minute addition of a few third-party guarantees for works from the Newhouse collection cut into the profitability of the sale either for Christie’s or for the consignor. In either case, the last-minute guarantees seem to have been unnecessary for the van Gogh and the Cézanne which both exceeded the low estimates nicely.
- Lot 2A Henri Moore
- Lot 8A Balthus
- Lot 14A Degas (last minute)
- Lot 15A Van Gogh (last minute)
- Lot 18A Cezanne (last minute)
- Lot 31A Modigliani
The aggregate estimates were only matched by the estimate level of 2014, a peak year in the art market but a disappointment May Impressionist and Modern Evening sale for Christie’s. Those Newhouse works also contributed to the total of works offered with estimate on request, a deciding factor in the performance of the sale. Once again, against the published estimates, the works performed toward the lower bound of the estimate range which is a regular pattern in this market.
On an average price basis, this sale was at the same level as 2015, another peak market year, but down from the previous two years. This average price performance is more a reflection of the mix of works on offer. A year earlier, the sale was dominated by a handful of very expensive works. This year, the vast majority of the sale was made up of lots sold above $1m.