High-end art sales suffer !

High - End art sales suffer global slump

Frank W. Benson (1889-1891) The reader 1910

Christie’s reports first-half art sales were down by a third from the same period last year....

The global art market has gone on a diet.
After the recession, seasoned and newcomer collectors alike surged into the world’s chief auction houses to splurge on trophies carrying eye-popping asking prices. Now, art lovers are cutting back, plying fewer $20 million-plus pieces into auctions and increasingly contenting themselves with cheaper, overlooked pieces.
The resulting portrait shows a marketplace relatively healthy for pieces below $5 million but eerily thin at the top—a reversal from the last market downturn, when only masterpieces appealed. On Wednesday, London-based auction house Christie’s International offered further proof of a downturn when it said it sold $3 billion in art during the first half of the year, down a third from the same period last year.
Christie’s latest total included $2.5 billion in auction sales, down 37.5% from a year ago. Its $464 million total in privately brokered art sales also fell 10% from the first half of 2015. Contemporary art, long the engine of Christie’s market dominance, was hardest hit, its $788 million in auction sales down 45% from a year earlier.

Sotheby’s, based in New York, said it auctioned $2.4 billion in art during the first half, down a quarter from the year before—yet close enough to put the house within spitting distance of its larger rival for the first time in years. Both auction houses said their six-month totals represented sales through June 30. Sotheby’s is scheduled to release its consolidated sales, which include private art sales, next month.
Masterpieces proved more difficult to wrangle in the first half as sellers chose to ride out the market’s uncertainty rather than push their priciest pieces into the fray. Christie’s said only 29 artworks it sold during the first half achieved prices exceeding $6.5 million—compared with 47 the year before—with nothing selling for anywhere close to the $180 million that Pablo Picasso’s “Women of Algiers (Version O)” brought in 2015.
Christie’s priciest work during the first half wasn’t even a painting: It was a 14.62-carat diamond called the Oppenheimer Blue that sold in Geneva in May for $58 million following a sitcom-length bidding war. Also in May, Christie’s New York sold Jean-Michel Basquiat’s wall-size, untitled self-portrait for $57.3 million.
Sotheby’s sold Picasso’s cubist, 1909 portrait “Seated Woman” for $63.6 million last month in London, the most expensive painting sold during the first half of the year. Sotheby’s also sold Amedeo Modigliani’s 1919 “Jeanne H├ębuterne (In a Scarf)” for $56.6 million, a record for a portrait by the artist.
Without a glut of eight-figure offerings, both houses shifted their spotlight to rare or milestone pieces by established artists who don’t typically get top billing in the houses’ marquee seasonal sales in New York and London. The strategy largely paid off, as bidders during the first half reset price levels for painter Sam Francis, sculptor Barbara Hepworth, Mexican icon Frida Kahlo, New York graffiti star Keith Haring and sculptor Henry Moore, whose “Reclining Figure: Festival” sold for a record-setting $33.1 million at Christie’s London the night before the Brexit vote.

thanks to author Kelly Crow


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