Global Art Auction Sales Fall, Private Treaty Transactions Flourish

Global Art Auction Sales Fall, Private Treaty Transactions Flourish

Global Art Auction Sales Fall, Private Treaty Transactions Flourish


The global art market contracted for the 2nd year running in Y 2016, falling to the lowest marks since the financial crisis as economic and political volatility weighed on auction sales.

Sales of art and antiques dropped 11% to $56.6-B, according to a report released Wednesday by UBS Group AG and Art Basel. The decline, on top of a 7% decliner in Y 2015, wipes out the gains seen in Y’s 2013 and 2014, when sales reached an all-time high of $68.2-B.

Art is a supply-driven marketplace and it’s vendors holding back, especially at the top end of the market. The private sector did well, but the auction sector declined dramatically bringing the overall numbers down.

The outlook for Y 2017 is cautious, with sellers holding back as economic and geopolitical uncertainty continues in many countries.

Buyers may view art and antiques as “a relative safe haven amidst volatility elsewhere,” increasing prices for the works that appear on the market, according to the report.

Some signs point to a brighter outlook.

London auctions of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art bounced back from last year’s doldrums.

Christie’s sold $332.8-M of Asian art in New York in a record-setting series of auctions last week.

Among last year’s losers:

  1. Auction sales declined 26% to $22.1-B, according to the report, released to coincide with the opening of Art Basel Hong Kong.
  2. Sales of postwar and contemporary works at auction fell 18% to $5.6-B, modern art was down 43% at $2.6-B; the Impressionist category declined 31% to $1.3-B.
  3. The high end of the auction market, $1-M+, fell 34%. Trophies priced at more than $10-M saw the biggest decline, at 53%
  4. Industry leaders Sotheby’s (NYSE:BID) and Christie’s lost market share, together accounting for 38% of the auction sales, down from 42% in Y 2015.

The US is still the leading market, representing 40% of all transactions by value. The 2nd-largest market was the UK, at 21%, followed by China, at 20%.

Sales by dealers and galleries represented 57% of the overall market, rising 3% to $32.5-B. The increase was driven by the top end of the segment, as dealers whose volume exceeded $50-M saw a 19% uptick in sales.

Art fairs generated about $13.3-B in sales, + 5%  from Y 2015, representing 41% of total sales by galleries.

Online sales increased by 4% to $4.9-B, accounting for 9% of the global market. Most sales were below $50,000, according to a survey of 50 companies.

Symbol Last Trade Date Change Open High Low Volume
NYSE:BID 46.26 22 March 2017 -0.13 46.21 46.65 46 197,034
HeffX-LTN Analysis for BID: Overall Short Intermediate Long
Very Bullish (0.53) Very Bullish (0.52) Very Bullish (0.54) Very Bullish (0.51)

Stay tuned…

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Paul Ebeling

Paul A. Ebeling, polymath, excels in diverse fields of knowledge. Pattern Recognition Analyst in Equities, Commodities and Foreign Exchange and author of “The Red Roadmaster’s Technical Report” on the US Major Market Indices™, a highly regarded, weekly financial market letter, he is also a philosopher, issuing insights on a wide range of subjects to a following of over 250,000 cohorts. An international audience of opinion makers, business leaders, and global organizations recognizes Ebeling as an expert.

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