As Sales Contract, Christie’s and Sotheby’s Report 13 Percent Drop in 2023 Figures - The World News

As Sales Contract, Christie’s and Sotheby’s Report 13 Percent Drop in 2023 Figures

In 2023, the combined auction and private sales reported by the top two global auction houses, Christie’s and Sotheby’s, amounted to $14.2 billion, marking a decrease of over 13 percent from the $16.4 billion they reported in 2022.

Christie’s reported a 20 percent decline in its total sales, plummeting from $8.4 billion in 2022 to $6.2 billion in 2023. Meanwhile, Sotheby’s projected in December that its 2023 sales would total $8 billion, less than the equivalent figure from the previous year.

The downturn follows a financial peak in 2022, precipitated by a surge in collecting during the pandemic. Advisors, gallerists, and auction house specialists have told ARTnews recently that, over the last six months, they’ve seen first-hand the significant slowdown in art sales.

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A painting of a white man set against a crimson background.

Other analyses of the art market show an even starker drop-off. In a recent report by industry analyst Art Tactic, which tracks art sales data globally, the combined auction sales across Phillips, Sotheby’s, and Christie’s amounted to $11.2 billion in 2023, a 19 percent decrease from 2022. (This figure excludes sums generated through private sales.)

Meanwhile, the cumulative sales for the top ten artworks at the three auction houses exhibited a significant drop, totaling $660 million in 2023 compared to $1.1 billion in 2022—a nearly 50 percent decrease. In 2021 and 2022, the prices for top artworks consistently increased, with few works in the top ten selling for less than $50 million. Last year, however, four of the top ten artworks sold for under $50 million—far more than in previous years.

A full view of the economic situation is not yet available, as Phillips has yet to disclose its 2023 results. In 2022, the three auction houses collectively generated $17.7 million in sales and Phillips saw a 10 percent increase from 2021, reaching $1.3 billion in 2022. (Phillips declined to respond to inquiries about its 2023 figures.)

Beyond the auction circuit, where prices are transparent, contemporary art galleries featuring earlier and mid-career artists told ARTnews last month that they had experienced significant pullback in buying, particularly from U.S.-based collectors, starting early last year. Multiple gallerists said that their sales were down as much as 25 percent in 2023 compared to the previous year.

The slower sales environment persisted through Art Basel Miami beach, which was become an important fair for young dealers aiming to boost their year-end sales totals. By the fair’s end, ARTnews found that nearly 50 small-scale galleries participating in ABMB’s specialist sections reported making only $1.6 million combined. This figure represents a minuscule portion of the $41.5 million generated through the sales of just three works disclosed by mega-dealers David Zwirner, Pace, and Gagosian during the fair’s initial days.

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