Christie’s released this morning preliminary sales figures for the fraught auction year of 2020 now closing. Despite the widespread closure of sales rooms around the globe, the house was able to make £3.4 billion ($4.4 billion) in auction sales, a drop of 27% from the previous year. In any other year, these figures might be viewed as a sign of weakness in the art market or the secondary market for luxury items. This year, the numbers will come as a sign of unexpected strength with more constraints on supply seemingly than demand.
To offset the lost sales caused by the disrupted live auction calendar, Christie’s relied upon 200 online-only sales that made up 10% of the volume. The auction house was also able to increase private sales to a projected £987 million ($1.3 billion) which racked up a 57% increase compared to 2019. Christie’s noted that it was able to sell more works above $25 million through private sales than at auction. Previously the house told reporters that it had sold three works above $100 million in private transactions.
Some additional figures cited by Christie’s in the release were that 36% of all buyers were new to Christie’s in 2020, with many engaging with the auction house through online-only sales. Among those buyers, 32% are millennials (23-38 years old.) Further geographical breakdowns were that 34% of global spend in auction sales went to buyers in Asia, well-balanced by Americas (33%) and EMEA (33%.)
The house also mentioned in its release that “of the top prices achieved at Christie’s this year for works by living artists under 45, 9 out of 10 were sold in our Hong Kong saleroom. Closing with a positive outlook for 2021 based on the fact that the second half of 2020 saw 25% growth in sales compared to H2 2019.