The world’s biggest auction houses are celebrating record revenues this year after the deaths or divorces of billionaire art collectors led to a string of blockbuster sales.
In total, the three major auction houses – Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips – sold £14.3 billion worth of art and other collectibles in 2022.
Christie’s, which is based in St James’s, central London, and held its first auction in 1776, made £7bn in 2022, up 34% from 2021. “That’s an absolute record, not only for Christie’s but for the art market,” said its managing director, Guillaume Cerutti.
Cerutti said that despite the “difficult macro environment”, the wealthy continued to spend and the “figures show the resilience of the art market”.
Christie’s banner year was helped by the sale of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s extensive collection of paintings and sculptures, which raised a record $1.5 billion (£1.25 billion). sterling).
Among the most expensive works sold was Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version) by pointillist pioneer Georges Seurat, an 1888 oil on canvas depicting three nude women, which fetched $149.2 million including fees, a record for a piece by Seurat.
Cézanne’s Montagne Sainte-Victoire, a colorful landscape painted from 1888 to 1890, sold for $137.8 million, another record. A 1903 Gustav Klimt painting, Birch Forest, set the highest mark for a Klimt work, selling for $104.6 million.
“When you look at a painting, you’re looking into a different country, into someone else’s imagination, how they saw it,” Allen said when exhibiting part of his collection in 2016.
Christie’s also sold Andy Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, from the estate of Swiss art dealers Thomas and Doris Ammann for $195 million – the second highest amount ever sold at auction for a work of art. The record belongs to Salvator Mundi, the possibly fake ‘Lost Leonardo’ artwork, which sold for $450 million in 2017.
Rival auction house Sotheby’s announced record sales of $7.4 billion in 2022, while Phillips hit an all-time high of $1.3 billion.
Charles Stewart, Managing Director of Sotheby’s, said: “The flight to quality in 2022 has resulted in a sustained demand for first-rate masterpieces – whether in established or new categories such as classic cars or collectibles.”
A good chunk of Sotheby’s sales came from the second part of the sale of the $246 million Macklowe Collection, following the divorce of property magnate Harry Macklowe from his wife, Linda. In total, the Macklowe sale, which began in 2021, reached $922 million.
Sotheby’s top lots of 2022 included a 21-bedroom house in Bel Air, California, with 42 full bathrooms and seven half bathrooms, which was sold to LA fashion mogul Richard Saghian for 141 million of dollars ; a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé for £114million; and Warhol’s White Disaster [White Car Crash 19 Times] (1963), which cost $85.4 million.
“As we consolidate the transformation of our business, Sotheby’s finds itself in a very different position today than it was even three years ago: with significantly expanded digital reach and engagement, a wider customer base and younger than ever and a much wider range of offerings,” Stewart said.
“In 2023, we look forward to continuing to set new records, bring new innovations to market and, of course, celebrate our 50th anniversary in Asia.”
Phillips’ total sales of $1.3 billion were 8% higher than in 2021 but 32% higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Its most prized lot, a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, was sold in New York last month for $85 million.