Art: the gleaming record of sales in New York

On the plane that transported him from Paris to New York for the May sales in New York for the past two weeks, Thomas Bompard, specialist in impressionist and modern art and vice-president of Sotheby’s France, had a ball in his stomach. “The stock markets were falling, it was the most difficult economic context that we have known since the start of the Covid, I feared a real correction in the art market”, he says. Nay. “In fact, the levels were historic because buyers were there to acquire very high quality works, trophies, often held by collectors for a long time,” he explains.

“In particular, we presented three exceptional private collections – Ammann, Bass and Jacobs – with masterpieces on all floors. Whatever the situation, collectors cannot pass up pieces of this rarity, with these provenances”, adds Guillaume Cerutti, the world boss of Christie’s.

Historical scores

“We sold 678 modern and contemporary works of art for a total of over $1.4 billion. One of our best weeks in our history, if not the best! he adds. Less than 10% of the lots did not find a buyer. In 2019, the Pinault house only sold $938 million worth of art during the same sales.

The results of Christie’s, with 7 of the 10 most expensive works auctioned, even exceed the total sales of Sotheby’s (1.1 billion dollars) and Phillips (225 million) combined, which however also outperformed. Thus, in 2019, the Drahi house sold only $842.2 million in goods. It must also be said that the estimates of the goods were often signed last year, in another context, in a reasonable way on the part of the sellers. Each auction house has also offered large guarantees to them.

922 millions pour Macklowe

Warhol’s Marilyn thus sold 195 millions , a nice price and probably a good deal nonetheless for the buyer in the perspective of future resale. “Untitled” by Jean-Michel Basquiat which, in 2004, sold for 4.5 million dollars, then 12 years later 57.3 million, this time went under the hammer for 85 million, sold to an Asian client .

The second part of the sale Macklowe reached $246 million, bringing the entire collection to over $922 million. Another collection of 12 works, including Le Parlement, soleil couchant by Monet, which belonged to the late Anne Bass, brought in 363 million. Impressionism regains color, proof that what has stood the test of time reassures in an uncertain world.

Despite geopolitical tensions, health hazards, galloping inflation and stock market tensions, the “premium” art market has once again shown its resilience because, as Anders Petterson, founder of ArtTactic pointed out, “At the high end of the art market, the returns can be colossal and few investments offer such performance”.

More selective market

“But the market is also increasingly selective, professional. It refocuses on the essentials, and needs benchmarks. Thus, Asian buyers have looked twice, avoiding overpaying for works that are not essential to their collection,” points out Thomas Bompard. This bodes well for the Givenchy sale, the couturier’s own collection, which will soon be put on sale by Christie’s in Paris.

Another element that reflects buyers’ need for confidence: “They prefer auctions, which are more transparent and objective, than private sales where deals take longer to conclude at the moment”, notes Thomas Bompard, who also notes “the very clear sanction suffered by NFTs as by cryptocurrencies, very speculative assets”.

It remains to be seen whether this improvement will last. Like the show, which is experiencing a certain congestion of concerts today, there is a catch-up effect in art. “During the pandemic, there was a shortage of works for sale due to uncertainty about the resilience of the market. A lot of people have chosen to wait,” said Brooke Lampley, World Sales Manager for Fine Art at Sotheby’s.

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