London: Christie’s auction house, the world’s largest, sold art worth £1.2 billion ($1.8 billion) in the first half of 2009, a fall of 35% from the same period last year.
Despite the sharp fall, reflecting global economic difficulties, Christie’s said the percentage of lots sold rose by 5% in 2009 to 78.3%.
Christie’s, its rival Sotheby’s and smaller auctioneers have said that while the financial crisis has hit prices, demand for choice works has remained relatively stable.
But sellers hoping for a return to the giddy heights of a booming art market one or two years ago were less willing to part with their works, meaning lower turnover. Christie’s sold 211 works of art for more than $1 million in the first six months, less than half the 457 sold during the same period last year. Sales totals include private sales of 133 million, a 13% drop year-on-year.
“While overall sale volumes have declined across the market, a five percent rise in sold percentages since the beginning of the year, combined with sustained price levels ... demonstrate that art has continued to hold its value,” said Edward Dolman, chief executive officer of Christie’s International.
Among the highlights from early 2009 was the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge collection which raised over €370 million ($470 million) in Paris in February.
The top-selling lot in the first half of 2009 was “Les Couscous, tapis bleu et rose” by Henri Matisse, which raised 32 million pounds followed by Constantin Brancusi’s “Madame L.R”, which fetched £26 million.