Art market

Global auction sales up 25% to $11.2bn in 2017

Contemporary art leads market recovery at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips, according to ArtTactic report

Jean-Michel Basquiat's Untitled (1982) sells to Yusaku Maezawa for $110.5m at Sotheby's New York in May 2017 Sotheby's

Despite a 9.3% dip in consignments, global auction sales grew 25% to $11.21bn in 2017, according to a new report by ArtTactic, the market analysis firm. The publicly available figures, which look at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips results but do not include online sales, suggest the auction market is in full recovery after slumping by almost a third between 2014 and 2016. 

Buoyed by the $450m sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, Christie’s saw the highest growth rate of 34%. Total sales for the auction house amounted to $5.89bn compared with $4.39bn in 2016. Christie’s decision to cancel its London June sales of post-war and contemporary art last year appears to have paid off. The category was its highest grossing, making $1.47bn, up 16.3% from the previous year. 

Sotheby’s saw a 15% increase in revenue, according to the report. Total sales for the auction house amounted to $4.69bn compared with $4.08bn in 2016. Sotheby’s business grew most in London, where sales fetched $1.32bn, a 29.7% leap from 2016.

Despite heavy investment in staff and financial guarantees, Phillips failed to wrestle market share from its two main rivals (5.6% in 2017 compared with 5.5% in 2016). Nonetheless, auction sales were up 28% in 2017, achieving $624.4m versus $489.1m in 2016.

Post-war and contemporary art was the clear leader in 2017, accounting for 29.3% of the market. Impressionist and Modern art came in second with 21.5% market share (up from 16.3% in 2016). Without the sale of the Salvator Mundi, the Old Master market turnover would have come in marginally lower than in 2016.

The London auction market appears to be weathering the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote. The UK capital ended the year with 24.2% market share by sales value, marginally lower than the 25% recorded in 2016. But auction sales grew from $2.24bn in 2016 to $2.72bn in 2017, a 21.3% growth in value.

However, New York’s domination continued apace, with a 41.7% jump in overall sales, lifting its market share to 48.7%. Elsewhere in the world, Shanghai saw the biggest swing, with a 42% increase in sales, while Dubai saw the greatest drop of -36%.