artnet Art Market Report Shows US Growing Despite Overall Fall in Global Auction Market

The overall market is slightly lower than expected, but average prices are higher.

Pablo Picasso, Les Femme d’Algers (Version “O”), 1955. Courtesy Christie's.
Pablo Picasso, Les Femme d’Algers (Version “O”), 1955. Photo: Courtesy Christie's.
Alberto Giacometti, Pointing Man (1947), bronze with patina, hand-painted. Courtesy Christie’s.

Alberto Giacometti, Pointing Man (1947), sold for $141.3 million, the most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction.
Photo: Courtesy of Christie’s.

A report released July 22 from artnet shows the global fine art auction market decreased by six percent on a value basis, to $8.1 billion, in the first six months of 2015.

A comparable period from 2014 shows the market had a value of $8.6 billion.

Despite the overall decline, the US market experienced significant growth during the entire six month period—spanning both the first and second quarters. The total sales value for the US was $3.4 billion, up from $2.9 billion in 2014.

Meanwhile, the remaining four of the top five regional markets—the UK, China, France, and Germany—saw a decline in sales compared with 2014. China in particular witnessed a dramatic decline of 30 percent, to $700 million.

And amid the overall decline, the report finds that the average price-per-lot sold increased over 20 percent, to $69,000, which suggests “an appreciation in the sales of high-value lots.”

In total, 766 lots sold for more than $1 million each in the second quarter (April through June). Although this marked a drop of 11 percent from the number sold over $1 million in comparable year period, the total value brought by these artworks was up 10 percent, to $3.8 billion.

Also higher was the number of artworks that achieved prices greater than $10 million (71, compared with 63 lots).

Perhaps not surprisingly, much of the action was recorded in the second quarter, which covers the major sales in New York, such as the May Impressionist and contemporary art sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips.

Pablo Picasso Femmes d'Alger (1955) will be offered at Christie's on May 11 with an estimate of $140 million.

Pablo Picasso, Femmes d’Alger (1955).
Photo; Courtesy of Christie’s.

The artnet report also named the top performing artists for the first half of the year. These included Pablo Picasso, with over $441 million in auction sales, and Claude Monet, with $289 million. Also on the list: Andy Warhol ($288 million); Alberto Giacometti ($204 million); Mark Rothko ($181 million); Gerhard Richter ($152 million); Francis Bacon ($150 million); Cy Twombly ($113 million); Joan Miró ($97 million); and Jean-Michel Basquiat ($94 million).

Picasso had help this year, via a member of Qatar’s House of Thani. Who could forget the blockbuster sale of the artist’s 1955 painting, “Les Femmes d’Alger,” which realized “a staggering $179.3 million” at Christie’s this past May, according to artnet’s press release.

Chinese artists Zhang Daqian and Qi Baishi still hold the two highest spots among Chinese fine artists. They rank 12th and 13th, respectively.

The top 10 lots sold at auction collectively realized more than $800 million, which represents just under 10 percent of global market sales. Of these lots 60 percent, or more than half, were categorized as Impressionist and modern, while the other 40 percent were from postwar and contemporary categories.

A section of the report highlights the New York market, noting that the city ranked first worldwide in terms of auction value. New York auctions experienced a 20 percent increase in value and a 3.7 percent increase in volume compared to the same period in 2014.

For related coverage, see:

Christie’s Releases Confusing First Half of Their 2015 Performance Report

Why Is Christie’s Shaking Up Its Spring Auction Season?

$179 Million Picasso Sets Stratospheric Record at Christie’s $705 Million Looking Forward Sale

Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Market Share Collapses as Sotheby’s Grows

Epic Christie’s $852.9 Million Blockbuster Sale Is Highest Ever

New Data Show Phillips Market Share Growing But They Still Trail Sotheby’s and Christie’s


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