Christie’s Posts a $2.2-Billion Drop in Sales in 2023

But 2022, the house's best year ever, was a hard act to follow.

Auctioneer Liang-lin Chen in the Christie's Shanghai saleroom, selling Lot 112 – 16.02.64 by Zao Wou-ki, sold for CNY 12.4 million ($1,7 million) including fees. Courtesy Christie's.

When he called 2023 a “paradoxical year,” Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti set the tone for the entire end-of-year review conference call he hosted with fellow executives for journalists from around the world this morning (December 18). 

Cerutti cited a “challenging macro-environment and the art-market contraction,” as key factors in the lower auction sales totals as compared with 2022. But the most significant factor was that last year’s totals were unmatchable, largely due to the sale of the collection of late Microsoft founder Paul Allen, which allowed the house to take in $1.5 billion in one evening sale alone—the equivalent of an entire spring or fall season not too long ago. In all, the collection added $1.6 billion to Christie’s 2022 bottom line.

On the other hand, Cerutti pointed to increased private sales and “a strong influx of new and younger clients at auction,” as reasons for optimism. “We have been continuing our judicious investments in innovation and expansion. We are confident for the future, with a promising pipeline of consignments already in motion for 2024.”

Jussi Pylkkänen selling the top lot of Christie's 20th Century evening sale, Monet's, Le bassin aux nymphéas for $74 million.

Jussi Pylkkänen selling the top lot of Christie’s 20th Century evening sale, Monet’s, Le bassin aux nymphéas for $74 million.

Christie’s reported total sales of $6.2 billion, down from $8.4 billion in 2022, which was its best year ever.

Auction sales came in at  $5.03 billion, down from the $7.2 billion reported last year. Private sales clocked in at $1.2 billion, which Christie’s said was a 5 percent increase from 2022, and represented 20 percent of its total sales, as compared with 14 percent in 2022. The auction house said the highest value lot it sold in 2023 was through a private sale, though it did not identify the work.

In the Americas the auction sales came to $2.57 billion, a 43 percent drop from 2022. However, Christie’s pointed out that excluding the Paul Allen sale the drop was 12 percent.

Auction sales in Europe, Middle East, Africa were $1.65 billion, a 9 percent drop, while the comparable number in the Asia Pacific region was $805 million, a four percent decrease.

The auction house said Asian buying has been resilient, both “regionally and globally” and that the number of new buyers from mainland China in its global sales is up 30 percent.

The house also said 35 percent of all buyers were new to Christie’s this year, and reported a 65 percent uptick in new Gen Z buyers, driven by handbags, watches, and prints. The house said millennials represent 34 percent of all new buyers.

Sotheby’s will report annual sales in January.

Meanwhile, Bonhams, which has been on a global buying spree of smaller regional houses in recent years, posted stellar results today. The house saw “turnover” of more than $1.2 billion for 2023, which it said is the best results in its history, according to its report. That number includes sales by the auction house as well as its network for art, collectibles, luxury and collectors’ cars, and marks a 14 percent jump from the $1 billion it reported for 2022.

Bonhams global CEO Bruno Vinciguerra said this year has been “one of the fastest growing and record-breaking years in Bonhams’ history,” in the report. “We have outpaced expectations by focusing on the core market.”

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