Phillips Auction House Says It Pulled In More Than Half a Billion Dollars in the First Half of 2021, a 25 Percent Increase Over 2019

Private sales and demand from Asia were key drivers of growth.

Auctioneer Henry Highley at Phillips evening sale of 20th Century and Contemporary art during the bidding for an Avery Singer painting that set a new auction record for the artist. Photo by Haydon Perrior (Thomas De Cruz Media)

Phillips auction house today gave the art world a glimpse of its financial standing as it released sales-figures results from the first half of 2021.

The house, which relocated into new, bespoke headquarters on Park Avenue in New York, said it achieved $542.7 million in sales in the first six months of the year, a 25 percent increase over the same period in 2019.

Private sales totaled $90.7 million, which the house said represented a 107 percent increase from 2019.

Meanwhile, auction sales were also up, albeit to a lesser degree, at 15 percent for a reported total of $452 million as compared with 2019.

The houses have generally been using 2019 as a barometer for comparison, given that the shutdown that hit most of the world in March 2020 has skewed that year’s overall numbers to an extreme.

The house said sales in Asia, another big driver of growth, increased 107 percent.

In a statement, Phillips C.E.O. Edward Dolman called the results “truly extraordinary.” He pointed to several “white glove” sales, in which every work at auction was sold, in New York, Geneva, and Hong Kong that he said demonstrated “a great sense of optimism and confidence in the market.”

“There is a palpable energy around the new generation of artists, and this season yielded soaring artist records for emerging artists who are making an important impact in our time,” Phillips global chairwoman Cheyenne Westphal added. 

Auction houses on the whole have benefitted from soaring demand for art and luxury goods since the onset of the pandemic. Across the board, all three major auction houses said private sales have also been extraordinarily busy.

Part of the boom has resulted from a swift shift to hybrid and online auctions, which have pulled in new buyers from around the world looking for everything from from watches to Basquiat paintings to—of course—NFTs.

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