Sotheby’s Reports Solid 2023 Sales Totals, Despite Market Challenges

The house's $7.9 billion haul bumped up against 2022's record figure.

Helena Newman auctioneering Gustav Klimt's Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan), 1907–08. Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s announced today that, for 2023, its consolidated sales came in at $7.9 billion, almost equaling the record $8 billion it reported for 2022. While overall auction sales dipped slightly, private sales ticked up. (The auction house defines its consolidated sales as the total of auction, private, and inventory sales.)

The numbers are impressive considering the broader economic backdrop and a decidedly slower pace in the art market over the past year. However, they can reveal only so much about the state of Sotheby’s—and the industry as a whole—since the firm no longer reports profits and losses, as it did before being taken private by investor Patrick Drahi in 2019.

Auction sales accounted for $6.5 billion, down from $6.6 billion in 2022. Luxury auctions were a bright spot within that figure, totaling $2.2 billion, a 4 percent increase over 2022. Private sales rose from $1.1 billion in 2022 to $1.2 billion, just off of 2021’s  $1.3 billion haul.

“Sotheby’s navigated the more challenging market well,” CEO Charles Stewart said in a statement, adding, “Activity remained high, supported by increasingly levels of generational wealth transfer and healthy auction sell-through rates.”

Sotheby’s termed 2023 a “landmark year” for single-owner auctions. It hosted 143 such sales, bringing in $1.3 billion, a 24 percent jump from 2022. Those affairs included the collections of Emily Fisher Landau (ringing up $427 million), Mo Ostin ($130 million), Clara Schreyer ($118 million), and Long Museum owners Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei ($109 million).

The top lot of the year for the house was Pablo Picasso’s Femme à la montre (1932), which made $139.4 million in the Fisher Landau sale in November.

Gustav Klimt, Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) (1917-18). Courtesy of Sotheby's London.

Gustav Klimt, Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) (1917-18). Courtesy of Sotheby’s London.

Two Gustav Klimts were also among its top performers: Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan), 1917–18, sold for $108.5 million, and Insel im Attersee (Island in the Attersee), 1901–02, went for $53.2 million.

A rare 41962 Ferrari 330 LM / 250 GTO by Scaglietti sold for $51.7 million, becoming the most valuable Ferrari ever sold at auction.

This fall, the house is planning to unveil a 24,000-square-foot space that it is billing as a “maison” in Hong Kong’s Central district and a new Sotheby’s Paris.

Next year, Sotheby’s plans to move into the famed Breuer building in Manhattan, which it acquired last year from the Whitney Museum. (Its current tenant, the Frick Collection, is set to move out in a few months and return to its freshly renovated Fifth Avenue mansion.)

In mid-December, Sotheby’s arch-rival Christie’s reported total sales of $6.2 billion, down from $8.4 billion in 2022, which was its highest total ever, buoyed by the sale of art from the vaunted collection of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s. Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti summed up 2023, during a conference call, as “a paradoxical year.

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