The Leonardo Effect: ArtTactic’s Raw Facts Auction Review 2017 – key findings

The London-based analytics company ArtTactic has released its 2017 Raw Facts Auction Review report on the global auction market.

Art Radar looks at its findings, which suggest growth across all aspects and locations of the auction business.

ArtTactic's 'Raw Facts - Auction Review 2017. Screenshot by Art Radar.

ArtTactic’s ‘Raw Facts – Auction Review 2017’. Screenshot by Art Radar.

The London-based analytics company ArtTactic has released its 2017 Raw Facts Auction Review report, which reviews the year in art auctions across the globe for the three major houses – Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips.

In brief

Global auctions sales were up 25 percent in 2017. Sales volume in USD from Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips ended up at USD11.21 billion in 2017, up 25 percent from 2016. The rise in turnover was particularly notable in the final quarter of 2017, which raised USD4.91 billion in total sales across the three auction houses, up 35 percent from the fourth quarter of 2016.

ArtTactic Raw Facts - Auction Review 2017. © ArtTactic. Screenshot by Art Radar.

ArtTactic Raw Facts – Auction Review 2017. © ArtTactic. Screenshot by Art Radar.

Average auction price jumps 38.3 percent in 2017. With a 25 percent increase in sales combined with a 9.3 percent fall in the number of sold lots (approximately 10,300 lots less sold in 2017) – the average auction price across all categories ended up at USD110,651, up from USD79,951 in 2016.

ArtTactic Raw Facts - Auction Review 2017. Sales value by auction house. © ArtTactic. Screenshot by Art Radar.

ArtTactic Raw Facts – Auction Review 2017. Sales value by auction house. © ArtTactic. Screenshot by Art Radar.

Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips

Christie’s saw the highest sales growth last year. All three auction houses monitored by ArtTactic experienced a positive increase in auction sales during last year. Christie’s saw the highest growth rate of 34 percent in annual auction sales, compared to 15 percent increase in public auction sales for Sotheby’s and 28 percent for Phillips. It was Christie’s fourth quarter (which included the record USD450 million sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi) that accelerated the final tally of the year. The final quarter raised USD2.81 billion for Christie’s, up from USD1.71 billion in 2016, a 64.1 percent jump in sales.

Further, despite a drop in market share at the expense of Sotheby’s in the second quarter of 2017, Christie’s ended the year back in top position, the result of the record-breaking sales season in November. Christie’s ended the year with a market share of 52.6 percent, against 41.9 percent for Sotheby’s (down from 45.5 percent in 2016) and 5.6 percent for Phillips (up minutely from 5.5 percent in 2016).

A global business?

Asian art sales have picked up momentum over last 12 months. ArtTactic notes that one of the fastest growing auction sales categories in 2017 was the Chinese & Asian auctions, which raised USD1.74 billion against USD1.46 billion in 2016, a 21 percent increase. The Chinese and Asian auction category accounted for 15.5 percent of worldwide sales in 2017.

Christies Auction (January 2016). Image courtesy Christies Asia.

Christies Auction (January 2016). Image courtesy Christie’s Asia.

London is also maintaining its market share of the auction business despite Brexit uncertainty. London ended the year with 24.2 percent market share by sales value, marginally lower than 25 percent registered in 2016. Despite Brexit looming over the future of the UK art market, auction sales grew from USD2.24 billion in 2016 to USD2.71 billion in 2017, a 21.3 percent growth in sales value. This is possibly attributable to the global growth in average sales price pushing the value of the auction market up as a whole.

However, it was New York that was the clear winner, with a 41.7 percent jump in overall sales, lifting its market share to 48.7 percent (up from 43 percent in 2016).

ArtTactic Raw Facts - Auction Review 2017. Auction sales by category. © ArtTactic. Screenshot by Art Radar.

ArtTactic Raw Facts – Auction Review 2017. Auction sales by category. © ArtTactic. Screenshot by Art Radar.

Contemporary on top

Post-War & Contemporary art sales accounted for 29.3 percent of total auction sales last year. The Post-War and Contemporary segment was the clear winner in 2017, accounting for 29.3 percent of the auction total for the year.

The Old Master market total was fuelled by the da Vinci sale, although the underlying market remains steady. The Old Master market came in at USD797 million in 2017, up from USD357 million in 2016. ArtTactic notes that this “total was heavily skewed by the $450 million da Vinci, and excluding this sale, the sales turnover would have been marginally lower than the previous year.”

What this statement potentially overlooks is that whilst Leonarda da Vinci is unquestionably an Old Master, the painting in question, Salvator Mundi, was actually sold through Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary department, and was the highlight of its November Evening Sale. What this would mean, of course, is that whilst the Old Masters category continues to languish steadily in unfashionability, Post-War and Contemporary would be pushed to even more stratospheric heights.

Auction scene. Image courtesy Sothebys.

Auction scene. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

The Leonardo Effect

One thing of note in ArtTactic’s report is just how much the record-smashing sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s previously unattributed portrait of Christ, Salvator Mundi, distorts the data in favour of the auction house that sold it – Christie’s New York.

At USD450 million, not only it is the most expensive painting ever sold at auction, but its price tag is also a significant enough proportion of the market as a whole to skew the data in the categories that ArtTactic is reporting on. Previous record sales of USD170.4 million for Modiglinai’s Reclining Nude, or USD179.4 million for Picasso’s Femme D’Algiers (incidentally both of which were sold at Christie’s in 2015) are priced at less than half of the da Vinci’s record and so hold less power to spike market reporting.

For example, Christie’s New York auction sales accounted for USD3.16 billion (or 53.7 percent of total global sales at Christie’s over the last 12 months). With its sale price of USD450,312,500, the da Vinci accounts for 14.2 percent of all New York sales, or 7.6 percent of Christie’s total annual worldwide sales. The total sales for the Post War & Contemporary Evening Sale on 15 November 2017, at which the painting was hammered down its record price, were USD788.9 million – meaning the da Vinci accounted for just over 57 percent of the evening’s total sales value.

As the most important auction market event of 2017, or indeed of recent years, the “Leonardo effect” can be seen in the primacy of Christie’s, New York and the Post-War and Contemporary sector across the global auction market in 2017.

Jessica Clifford

2054

Related topics:reportsauctionsmarket transparencymarket watch

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