Christie’s Sales Surge by 46% After Demand Recovers From Slump

Christie's in London
Christie's in London. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Christie’s International’s first-half sales jumped 46 percent as a recovery in demand buoyed prices, particularly for rare works, and such buying is likely to continue in autumn sales, the auction house said today.

Christie’s sold 1.71 billion pounds ($2.73 billion) of art and antiques in January through June, compared with 1.2 billion pounds a year earlier, when prices were depressed by the global economic slump. The figures include buyer’s premium.

“Global confidence in the art market has been evident throughout the first half of 2010,” Chief Executive Edward Dolman said in an e-mailed statement. “We expect it to continue with our autumn sale. Great works continue to inspire and prices demonstrate a sustained commitment to art as a store of value.”

Sales in the period included the $106.5 million paid for Pablo Picasso’s 1932 painting “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” in New York in May, the most for any artwork at auction. Christie’s said it sold 75 percent of works that fetched more than $50 million and it achieved 51 percent of global auction sales against its main competitor, New York-based Sotheby’s.

“Our results also reflect the growing role of Asia in the marketplace,” Dolman said. Christie’s Hong Kong sales jumped 132 percent from a year earlier to 200.5 million pounds.

Looking ahead, Christie’s New York will offer property from the collection of late actor Dennis Hopper during its Postwar & Contemporary Evening and Day Sales in New York on Nov. 10 and 11. Highlights include works by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The collection may fetch more than $10 million.

Sotheby’s Follows

The London-based auction house is a private company owned by the French billionaire Francois Pinault. Christie’s was bought by Pinault’s holding company, Artemis SA, for $1.2 billion in May 1998. It doesn’t report revenue or profit. It discloses sale totals twice a year. Sotheby’s is scheduled to release results tomorrow.

Christie’s said its policy, in line with international accounting standards, is to convert results using an average exchange rate to avoid exchange fluctuations throughout the year. On this basis, the 1.71 billion-pound total for the first half of 2010 corresponds to $2.57 billion, the company said in an e-mailed release.

(Richard Vines writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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