While it also highlights a number of other trends, it specifically points to internet sales in the middle market and trophy post-War and Contemporary artworks as being the twin key battlegrounds.
Christie's reported $35.1m of online sales in 2014, up 60% on the previous year, while, as ATG reported last week, Sotheby's declared online buying up 42%. Sotheby's deal with eBay to provide them with an online platform for sales in the $5000-100,000 range, along with the restructuring of the buyer's premium thresholds to bring in more money for lower and middle-market sales, are further pointers to where the big two auction houses are turning their gaze. Bearing in mind that together Christie's and Sotheby's accounted for 42% of the entire global fine art and antiques auction market in 2014, the potential prize is enormous.
However, balancing the need to focus on this area of growth in the middle market will be the knowledge that the top auction lots - 1500 of them, or just 0.3% by volume of everything sold - brought in 48% of all the money taken on the rostrum.
The extraordinary and ongoing boom in post-War and Contemporary art, with so much of the money coming for works by such a limited field of artists, makes the top end of the market a volatile place in which to operate, but if the risks are high, the rewards are potentially monumental.
Christie's and Sotheby's need to rethink strategy
Headline prices are one thing, but as we have discussed many times in recent months, if consignment deals with wily vendors slash profits on multi-million pound lots in New York and London, Sotheby's and Christie's need to rethink their strategy. How do they continue to exclude other players at this level without holding a gun to their own heads in negotiating terms? Surely the answer must be that if you can't beat them on fees, you must look at service in tandem with your access to, and ability to woo, the right buyers.
Dr Clare McAndrew's annual report, alongside ATG's own 2014 Import/Export figures, also reported in ATG next week (timing means the TEFAF Report has access to only the 2013 figures), brings a welcome, evidence-based assessment of the global market whose parameters and trends can be hard to pin down.