According to a report published by London-based art market analytics firm Pi-eX, auction sales are once again at pre-pandemic levels after a tumultuous year of financial strain.
Despite an abrupt shutdown that forced the industry to adapt overnight, data from the second quarter of this year suggests the auction market is back in full force. According to the report, the top three public auction houses—Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips—saw a 405 percent year-over-year increase in sales during the second quarter of 2021 between the months of April and June.
Whereas the houses brought in $900 million during the second quarter of 2020, during the second quarter of this year, they brought in $4.6 billion, slightly exceeding numbers from the same period in 2019. In the second quarter of 2020, these houses weathered the worst year-over-year drop-off since the 2008 financial crisis.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg Markets, Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti said that auction houses struggled in 2020 because “there was very strong demand, but the supply was more challenging.” In other words, art collectors were more reluctant to sell their works during the embattled financial period. Buyers, on the other hand, were likely to go after opportunities to collect during the economic lag.
Now, things have changed. A boost from Asia-based clients fueled the market’s return to its pre-pandemic level. They increased auction sale results in China, boosting them to $1.2 billion this year—a sum that’s up 69 percent from the $734 million generated in the second quarter of 2019.
By comparison, the U.S. failed to bounce back to its 2019 level during 2021’s second quarter, however, with saw a 16 percent drop in sales from the same period in 2019.
In a report on the first half of 2021, Christie’s said Asian buyers accounted for a historic high of 39 percent all bids across fine art and luxury categories, spending $1.04 billion in total. Phillips likewise found success in the region, seeing the highest increase in sales between the second quarters of 2019 and 2021. The 34 percent uptick can be attributed to the London-based house’s collaboration with Chinese auction house Poly for its modern and contemporary art evening sales. This spring, Phillips and Poly made $122 million across four consecutive white-glove sales over the course of a week.
Meanwhile, across sales in all regions, Sotheby’s saw a 16 percent increase in the second quarter of 2021 over the second quarter of 2019. Christie’s, which led by market share in 2019, however, saw its Q2 2021 sales dip by 9 percent.
The second quarter of this year also saw the return of another crucial auction format: the single-owner collection sale, which brings major holdings amassed by the world’s wealthy elite to the open market, often after decades of secrecy. The estate of French advertising tycoon Francis Gross sold his Surrealist works at Christie’s, for example, and luxury footwear mogul Stuart Weitzman parted ways with rare stamps at Sotheby’s. According to the Pi-eX report, these auctions helped boost the houses’ sales by a significant margin, signaling a return of confidence among the art world’s high-profile sellers. The sales generated $489 million in Q2 2021, about five times the amount made in the second quarter of 2020.
A new focus on non-traditional collectible categories, such as crypto art, attracted millennial buyers this year and played a role in the market’s rebound. NFT sales are now a $2.4 billion global market according to a recent Dapp Industry report. Following the $69 million sale of a Beeple work in March, NFTs dominated the first quarter of 2021. The pace of NFT buying slowed between April and June this year, accounting for just $50 million, or around 1 percent of Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips’s total sales.
Dealer Vito Schnabel, Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk Launch NFT Platform
Dealer Vito Schanbel and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk have come together to create ArtOfficial, a new online auction platform that will feature NFTs by established artists. The platform, whose name is pronounced like the word “artificial,” launched on Friday with an auction of Francesco Clemente NFTs. Like other NFT enterprises, ArtOfficial will stage sales that sometimes…
Dealer Vito Schanbel and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk have come together to create ArtOfficial, a new online auction platform that will feature NFTs by established artists.
The platform, whose name is pronounced like the word “artificial,” launched on Friday with an auction of Francesco Clemente NFTs. Like other NFT enterprises, ArtOfficial will stage sales that sometimes come with added perks for buyers. In today’s auction, the buyer of Clemente’s Milarepa’s Dream (2021), an image of a heart pierced by a white flag, will be able to have their portrait painted by the artist within a year of purchase.
In the coming months, works by artists represented by Vito Schanbel’s gallery, such as Jordan Kerwick, Spencer Lewis, Robert Nava, Ariana Papademetropoulos, Julian Schnabel, and Gus Van Sant, will be available, along with a few artists not represented by the Gallery.
Vaynerchuk and Schanbel developed the idea for ArtOfficial less than a year ago. “Within 30 or 40 minutes it was very clear that there was potentially an opportunity to provide exceptional value for top contemporary artists,” Vaynerchuk said. “We could provide a really strong NFT strategy for artists who are navigating this incredible shift in consumer behavior.”
Schanbel said that ArtOfficial is a place where works are not just sold but created. Describing the platform as “an extension of my gallery,” he added, “It’s not just a sales platform.”
ArtOfficial aims to foster artists’ creation of NFTs, and it’s not alone in that regard. NFT platforms like Foundation, OpenSea, and others offer curated selections of work from established and rising artists. Schnabel said that ArtOfficial is different from these in that it is “more selective than other platforms.”
ArtOfficial faces steep competition. In recent months, galleries like Pace have launched their own platforms with the aim of offering NFTs by the artists on their roster, while other enterprises like Christie’s are working with artists to create NFTs of their works. It is clear that more art world NFT platforms are coming, though whether the community that often dictates the value of these projects will come to embrace these enterprises remains to be seen.
Ritualistic Tools Found at Egypt’s Temple of the Pharaohs: ‘An Important Discovery’
Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a set of artifacts at the Temple of Pharaohs, an ancient structure about 60 miles east of Alexandria. The artifacts may have once been used in religious rituals, and could potentially shed light on some of the ceremonies that took place at the temple around 2,700 years ago. The find was…
Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a set of artifacts at the Temple of Pharaohs, an ancient structure about 60 miles east of Alexandria. The artifacts may have once been used in religious rituals, and could potentially shed light on some of the ceremonies that took place at the temple around 2,700 years ago.
The find was announced by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities earlier this week. Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said in a statement that the find was “an important discovery.”
Among the objects found were pieces of ivory carved to resemble women carrying objects; statues of Taweret, the goddess of motherhood known as the “Great One”; incense burners crafted from faience, a kind of glazed ceramic; a piece of gold sculpted to resemble the eye of Wadjet, the goddess of Lower Egypt; and a maternity chair. Archaeologists believe these artifacts may have once been used in ceremonies honoring Hathor, the goddess of fertility.
Experts believe these objects may have been “quickly placed” beneath a stack of heavy stone blocks, possibly to hide the objects as the Persian Empire began its conquest of Egypt, which ultimately led to the collapse of the 26th Dynasty, the last native Egyptian dynasty to rule. Some objects are inscribed with the name of Psamtik I, who ruled as king of Egypt from 664 B.C.E. to 610 B.C.E, during the 26th Dynasty, as well as those of the kings Wahibre Ibiau, who ruled ca. 1670 B.C.E., during the 13th Dynasty, and Ahmose II, who died in 526 B.C.E. and is considered the last great king of the 26th Dynasty.
In addition to this trove of artifacts, the archaeologists discovered what the described as a “large limestone threshold” that included a well once containing holy water. That structure also includes a bathtub, a bathroom, and a place where water could be heated.
The 9 Best Booths at Art Basel 2021: From a Monumental Nari Ward to Pauline Curnier Jardin’s Theater of Intimacy
Earlier this week, Art Basel opened its first in-person edition of its marquee fair in its hometown Swiss city since the onset of the pandemic. The anxiety of attending the fair, including meeting the strict Covid safety protocols required to enter, soon gave way to palpable excitement within the Messeplatz, the convention center where Art…
Earlier this week, Art Basel opened its first in-person edition of its marquee fair in its hometown Swiss city since the onset of the pandemic. The anxiety of attending the fair, including meeting the strict Covid safety protocols required to enter, soon gave way to palpable excitement within the Messeplatz, the convention center where Art Basel takes place. A parade of smart-suited VIPs of some of Europe’s top collectors lined up for the 11 a.m. entry before making their way into the fair. During the fair’s first day, the world’s top galleries reported strong sales across the board and at various price point, from the few thousand to over $5 million.
Below, a look at some of the best art at Art Basel, which runs through Sunday, September 26.