The mid-year reports from Christie’s has shown a 38% drop in sales illustrating a contraction in the buoyant art market. The Wall Street Journal released figures which pointed to an increase in sales of artworks in the $5 million-or-below range, but a slowdown in the $20 million and up categories resulting in a drop in overall sales figures, compared to last year.
Christie’s International announced that it sold $3 billion in art during the past six months, which represents a decline of 38% from last year’s totals. The greatest reduction in sales came in the category of contemporary art, usually a great strength, with $788 million in auction sales in the last half year down 45% from the same period in 2015.
Sotheby’s has also released their auction totals amounting to $2.4 billion January to June. Sales figures are similar to their rival Christie’s. In respect to individual sales, a predicted slowdown of collectors selling their most valuable pieces until the market recovers is predicted. Auction houses aren’t in a position to offer the guarantees that they were a year ago. Christie’s have managed to sell twenty nine works over the $6.5 million price-point, compared to 47 last year.
The cooling of the art market have pushed both of the major auction houses to concentrate on high sell-through rates in order to promote confidence from sellers. Sotheby’s managed a 95% STR in its contemporary art auction in May, despite a lower overall sale total. We now must wait and see what the Autumn sales will bring to the auction block, in New York, London, and Hong Kong. This will be the true barometer of health or sickness of the market.