The art auction market goes international

[08 Jun 2002]

  Prestigious auctions held in Hong Kong, Melbourne, Singapore, Tel Aviv, and other locations, by Sotheby’s and Christie’s have set the art market in an international context. The US continues to dominate with around a 50% share in 2001. But Europe’s share is substantial and gaining ground each year. The rest of the world still has a timid presence in the auction market but is becoming more active. The market share commanded by US auctions has fallen from 66.3% in 1997 to 48% in 2001.

Between January and end of May 2002, the US accounted for around 56% of the global market. This compares to 61.5% of total turnover in the same period last year. But the UK which is hosting superb auctions in June 2002 should capture market share from the US. One exceptional work sold in New York last month may fetch over 1% of the year’s total turnover, as happened last year when La montagne Sainte-Victoire by Paul Cézanne, sold for USD35 million in New York at Phillips De Pury et Luxembourg, yielded 1.4% of 2001 turnover. In the same year, the top 10 lots sold made up 7% of total annual sales. Each country’s turnover depends heavily on being able to offer high-quality and exceptional prestigious lots. The whole year’s earnings can be concentrated in the space of a few days: over 16% of annual sales were made between 6-10 May 2001. This means that the auction houses focus on a frantic quest for fine collections.

France is gradually raising its market share from around 7% in 2001 to around 9% this year. Until recently, Europe specialised in « mid-range » works, but is now offering an increasing number of exceptional lots. Recently in June, a portrait of George Washington (1732-1799) was sold for EUR 4.4 million and a painting by Sonia DELAUNAY-TERK was sold for EUR 4.1 million. It was four years since France had auctioned works of this order. Globalization of the art market 2001 turnover

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