New Data Shows Phillips’ Market Share Growing But They Still Trail Christie’s and Sotheby’s
Though still far behind, Phillips is gaining ground.
The most recent slate of contemporary art sales in London at Phillips, Christie’s, and Sotheby’s once again illustrated that there’s strong global demand for trophy artworks. But frothy they were not. Some of the biggest highlights failed to sell and overall auction volume proved hard to predict on a short sales week (it ran from June 29–July 1).
Phillips, while still remaining far behind Sotheby’s and Christie’s in terms of overall totals for the evening contemporary sales (think $30 million compared with $200 million), has nonetheless been making strides in grabbing additional market share.
As the above chart indicates, volume has been trending up in the past four seasons, from $17 million in February 2014 to its recent total of $28.7 million.
For Christie’s, whose New York contemporary sales seem to spiral ever higher, its London evening sales volume has been volatile in recent seasons; the $150 million it realized on June 30 was its lowest in four seasons, having trended steadily down from $206 million in February 14.
Though that sale hit its estimate, artnet News writer Colin Gleadell described the June auction as one of “fluctuating tempo” and noted that 30, or more than half, of the 48 lots offered sold on or below the low estimate on thin bidding. As two of four Gerhard Richter paintings failed to sell, a pattern of buyer fickleness spilled over into the Sotheby’s sale the following evening.
Meanwhile, Sotheby’s totals have been on the rise, and the $204.7 million on July 1 was its highest evening contemporary sale in London to date. But it was also not without hiccups. Four of its top lots were unsold, and notwithstanding the new London record, the $204.7 million total missed the low estimate.
As reported by Gleadell, the stranded artworks included the most expensive lot of the night, Francis Bacon’s Study for a Pope I, that was expected to sell for £25–£35 million ($39–$55 million) but failed to elicit even a single bid. Meanwhile, the previous evening at Christie’s, two Bacon paintings topped the sale and accounted for $40 million of the total.
Of three Richters offered by Sotheby’s, one failed to sell on a £2 million ($3.1 million) estimate; another sold for £3.3 million ($5.2 million) but missed the estimate; and a third sold for £14 million ($22.2 million).
It appears that regardless of the glowing press releases, blue-chip artists can sell, or flop, depending on the season. The data shows that there are very few safe bets in this cutthroat market.
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