Whitehot Magazine

March 2013: February Art Market Report

“A mythological scene, perhaps Venus and Cupid” by Abraham Bloemaert (Gorinchem 1566-1651 Utrecht), offered at Chrisitie’s
New York during the “Old Master Paintings Part I” sale held on January 30, 2013.

By Shireen Lohrasbe


THE 2ND ANNUAL PALM SPRING FINE ART FAIR ran February 14–17 with 57 participant galleries exhibiting 1000+ artworks. This year, PSFAF welcomed 11,700 visitors (up 23% from last year).

IN LATE FEBRUARY, ARTSPACE.COM announced that it raised an additional $8.5 Million in capital. The site’s backers comprise a number of venture capitalists including: Carmen Busquets, Co-Founder of Net-a-Porter; Tom Stemberg, Founder of Staples Inc.; and, Robert Pittman, Founder of MTV. Artspace also announced that it has appointed Maria Baibakova as Strategic Director to its Management Board. Baibakova is a Russian arts patrons who runs a nine-year old non-profit called Baibakova Art Projects.

SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK held its annual Old Masters Week sales January 29–February 2. This year, the OM sales totaled $80 Million, compared to $73.1 last year. The main evening sale totaled $58.2, considerably lower that its $73–$107 Million pre-estimate. Of 404 lots offered, 236 found buyers thus the sales achieved a low 58.4% selling rate and 60.7% by value. A major work by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni titled “Susanna and the Elders” (1751) sold for $11,394,500 (well beyond its $6–9 Million pre-estimate). Another major lot was Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes’ work titled “Portrait of Mariano Goya, The Artist’s Grandson” (1827), tagged with a $6–8M pre-estimate. In the final press release, George Wachter, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Worldwide, and Christopher Apostle, Head of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings department in New York, commented: “There was tremendous international bidding throughout the week, particularly from Russian collectors, who are extremely interested in French and Italian 18th century work.”

CHRISTIE’S TOO HELD ITS EQUIVOCAL OM sales in late January, early February. The numerous OM and Renaissance art sales totaled $88.4 Million (in the mid-range of its $75–115M pre-estimate). This was the highest total attained for February OM sales in NY since 2006. Christie’s Co-Chairman Nicholas Hall told Reuters: “Competitive international bidding from private clients, new and established, affirms the strength and enduring appeal of Old Master works.”

        Christie’s OM evening auction fetched $42.6 Million. Of 51 lots, 33 found buyers. Highlights included: Fra Bartolomeo’s “Madonna with Child,” which sold for $12.9 Million; Sandro Botticelli’s “Madonna with Child with Young Saint John the Baptist,” which sold for $10.4M (setting a new record for the artist); and, Il Gaetano “Portrait of Jacopo Boncompagni in Armour” sold for $7.6M (setting another artist record). Together Christie’s and Sotheby’s OM Week sales in New York reached a collective total of $168 Million.

CHRISTIE’S LONDON POST-WAR AND CONTEMPORARY sale transpired February 13. The evening auction realized £81.6 Million ($127.7 Million)—the highest auction total for a February PwC evening sale in London. Of 65 lots, 96% sold by value and 27 lots sold for $1M+.

       The top lot was Basquiat’s “Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown),” which sold for £9.3M/$14.6M, surpassing its £7–9M pre-estimate. Additional sales highlights: Gerhard Richter’s “Abstraktes Bild,” which sold for £8.4M; Peter Doig’s “The Architect’s Home in the Ravine,” which sold for £7.66M (setting a new record for the artist); and, Francis Bacon’s “Man in Blue VI,” which sold for £4.96M to British collector Ivor Braka. Other top earners included works by David Hockney, Damien Hirst, Sherrie Levine, Wade Guyton, and Richard Prince. Combined with the PwC day sale, Christie’s grossed £96M in two days. Additionally, the sales made ten new artist records.

SOTHEBY’S LONDON HELD two contemporary sales in mid-February as well. The evening sale totaled £74.4 Million/$116.4 Million, within its £61.2–84.5M pre-estimate . This was the second-highest total for a February contemporary sale at Sotheby’s London. The top lot was Francis Bacon’s triptych masterpiece titled “Three Studies for a Self-Portrait.” It sold for £13.8M/$21.5M (within its £10–15M pre-estimate), procured by German collector Jürgen Hall.

SOTHEBY’S LONDON IMPRESSIONIST, MODERN & SURREALIST February sales resulted in an 85% selling rate, up 10.4% from 2011. The numerous evening sales totaled £121 Million/$190.5 Million (Imp-Mod, £104.4M, Surrealist, £16.7M). The top lot was Pablo Picasso’s “Femme assise près d’une fenêtre.” The painting was bought by an anonymous telephone bidder for £28.6M/$45M, part of Picasso’s important series depicting his muse Marie-Thérèse. Other highlights included works by: Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Gustave Caillebotte, Egon Schiele, and Joan Miró.

CHRISTIE’S LONDON IMPRESSIONIST AND MODERN auctions raised £136.5 Million/$213.4 Million. The top lot was Amedeo Modigliani’s portrait of his lover titled “Jeanne Hebuterne (au chapeau).” The painting was purchased by an anonymous phone bidder for £26.9M/$42.1M. Furthermore, five new records were achieved for artists: Berthe Morisot, Renè Magritte, Alberto Magnelli, Kay Sage and Óscar Domínguez.

ACCORDING TO ARTEMUNDI GLOBAL FUND, London’s February Impression, Modern and Surrealist auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s present a number of key findings. The report states: “Overall, Impressionist and Modern Art appear to have a solid market with sales in the $100,000-$500,000 price rank dominating the market. In particular, Sotheby’s established its second highest London sale of Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist art, and Christie’s results were the highest in this sector during February.” In total, 652 lots fetched $475.9 Million USD, topped by Picasso followed by Modigliani, Renoir then Monet.

CHRISTIE’S INTERNATIONAL ANNOUNCED a 10% increase in sales from 2011. The auction house earned $6.7 Billion in 2012 with private sales accounting for $1 Billion (up 26%). Post-War and Contemporary remains the most lucrative category for the auction house, accounting for $1.6 Billion in sales, up 34% from 2011. In total, Christie’s sold 686 works for over $1 Million and 49 for over $10 Million.

        A contributing factor was online sales. The launch of online-only auctions attracted 39% new buyers. According to Steven P. Murphy, Chief Executive Officer at Christie’s: “Accessibility to the market is key and we have continued to develop our online presence. In 2012 we saw a 11% increase in visitors to our website and our inaugural season of online-only auctions offering works of art, wine, fashion and memorabilia at accessible prices, attracted a huge number of new bidders and buyers.”

PUBLICLY-TRADED SOTHEBY’S ANNOUNCED $5.4 Billion in consolidated worldwide sales for 2012, down 7.6% from 2011. This is due to decreased auction commissions as well as fierce competition by its main rival Christie’s. Christie’s was able acquire more high-end consignments and integrate online sales into its calendar resulting in higher revenues in 2012.

CHRISTIE’S-OWNED HAUNCH OF VENISON GALLERY, with locations in London and New York, is officially closing as of March 2013. Initially reported by Josh Baer of Baer Faxt, the news comes as a shock to the industry. H of V’s senior director Emilio Steinberger told Katya Kazakina at Bloomberg News, “The proposal is for Haunch of Venison to evolve into Christie’s private sales… Private sales at Christie’s have been growing exponentially and the decision was made that’s where the focus should be.”

THE 32ND EDITION OF ARCO MADRID attracted 120,000+ visitors February 13–17. Arco included 201 galleries from 27 countries repping over 2000 artists, with international participation up by 66% this year. Sales highlights included: a work by Juan Muñoz, which sold for €200,000 at Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Arts (based in New York); a Jaume Plensa bust sold for €240,000 at Galerie Lelong (NY-based); a piece by José Guerrero sold for €172,000 at Leandro Navarro (Madrid); an Albert Oehlen work sold for €340,000 at Galería Juana de Aizpuru (Madrid); and, an oil on wooden panel piece by Hans Hofmann sold for €330,000 at Galerie Hans Meyer (Dusseldorf).

THE 17TH EDITION OF ART INNSBRUCK—Austria’s second foremost fair after ART Vienna—ran February 21–24. This year, it featured 70 exhibitors from 10 countries and attracted over 17,000 visitors.

THE 5TH EDITION OF INDIA ART FAIR ran January 31 to February 3. This year, IAF (sponsored by YES BANK) featured 105 galleries from 24 countries showcasing 1000+ artists. The annual “Speakers’ Forum” featured: Amin Jaffer, International Director of Asian Art, Christie's; New Dehli-based artist Subodh Gupta; and Robert Storr, Dean at Yale School of Art.

ARTPRICE HAS PARTNERED WITH ARTRON, a Chinese art market database. According to Art Media Agency, “The French company will henceforth benefit from Artron’s competences in data treatment and information analysis from China, thanks to Art Market Monitor of Artron (AMMA), Artron’s research centre that analyses the Chinese art market. Artron’s database houses over 2.5m Chinese artworks as well as results of public auctions organised in China. This database also provides, for each work, high-definition pictures, complete with information from over 500 auction houses.” Coupled with Artprice.com (which houses millions of indexes from thousands of auction houses), the merger further strengthens both companies as leading resources for art market-related data.

CHINA-BASED AUCTION SALES DROPPED from $11.8 Billion in 2011 to $10 Billion in 2012. The two dominant auction houses, Poly and China Guardian reported billions in lost revenue, down more than half over the course of a year. This is partly due to defaulted loans and payments, initially reported as revenue by the auction houses (in 2011). Moreover, frequent government crackdowns have deterred new buyers from entering the market. Another important factor: auction sales in China account for 70% of all art sales (as opposed to the average of 50% auctions/50% private sales in most other countries).

ARTPRICE RELEASED ITS MOST RECENT REPORT aptly titled “The Art Market 2012.” The report states, “In 2012, global art auctions generated $12.269 billion, of which $5.068 billion was generated in China and $7.2 billion in the rest of the world. At the heart of this now bipolar market, the combined forces of New York (which represents 95% of the US market), Europe and certain other larger centres such as Australia, Sweden, Austria and Canada generated $2.131 billion more sales revenue than China. The longevity of the Western market, sustained by an age-old culture of art collecting, has allowed it to maintain its position of economic leader and to achieve sales that are 17.37% higher than those of China. This year, East and West have found themselves swapping roles. While sales in the Western art market have increased by 5.5% since 2011 and new world records have been set at auctions, China registers its worst unsold rate for 5 years (53.9% in China compared to 37% in the West).”



Shireen Lohrasbe

Shireen holds a BBA in Design & Management from Parsons The New School for Design and an MA in Art Business from Sotheby's Institute of Art, New York. She has contributed to several online publications including Art Observed, Quintessentially Art, and Whitewall Magazine. Shireen is a regular art market contributor at Whitehot Magazine.

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