Christie’s dominates US market

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Last year, the success of the art market in the United States was shaped by two primary factors: the booming Post-War and Contemporary market and the dominance of Christie’s. That is the finding of a comprehensive overview of the global art market released by artnet, the online resource to buy, sell, and research fine art, design.

In 2013, sales at Christie’s New York represented roughly half (47.6%) of the value of art sold in the United States, grossing US$2.3 billion in sales in fine art alone, up 30% from value sold in 2012. Over 40% of the value sold at Christie’s last year was generated from the famed Post-War and contemporary sales in May and November, both of which set subsequent new records for value sold during a single auction.

In May, Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary auctions collectively earned US$640 million, with the evening sale setting a new record high in auction history, selling US$495 million in a single auction session. During the course of the evening, over a dozen new auction records were set for Contemporary artists, among them, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jackson Pollock.

“In the following weeks, questions were raised about the stability and sustainability of the Contemporary art market growing at that pace,” states the report.

Q3 continued to look promising: auction sales of fine art in the United States were up 20% in the third quarter, led by extremely successful sales at Christie’s New York (+42% in Q3) and Bonhams New York (+18%).

“Other American cities were also able to capitalize on the traditionally slow summer months, with Heritage Auctions, Freeman’s Auctioneers, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, and Neal Auction Company showing considerable growth in both volume and value sold in Q3,” adds the report.

In November, the Post-War and Contemporary auctions at Christie’s New York topped the record set five months prior by selling over US$690 million during the evening auction, a sale which benefitted from strong demand (91% sell-through rate) on behalf of bidders from over 40 countries. During this sale, the record was set for the highest price ever paid for a work of art, as well as the highest price ever paid for a work by a living artist.

Of all fine art sold in the United States in 2013, the post-war and contemporary market held 44% of the market share by volume, followed by the Modern market (28%), and the Impressionist market (16%).

The report also highlights the fact that almost 50% of Fine Art sold in 2013 can be attributed to American artists. Leading American artists sold in the Unites States in 2013 include Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Jeff Koons, Norman Rockwell, Mark Rothko, Alexander Calder, and Cy Twombly. Among top-performing media categories in the United States, paintings and sculptures continued to perform well at auction, with paintings up 28% by value from 2012, followed by an 18% increase in value sold for sculptures.