Christie’s Jussi Pylkkänen

Christie’s global president Jussi Pylkkänen selling Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn on May 9 at Christie’s New York.

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Auction sales reached £2.8bn and private sales were £500m. The results were its best in seven years. Although private sales slowed, there was significant growth in auction sales, largely due to the change in behaviour post the pandemic.

Guillaume Cerutti, chief executive officer at Christie’s, said: “Demand is very strong and there is no sign this demand will weaken in the coming months. We are watching the analysis and while we are cautious and there is of course uncertainty, we believe there are signs of a good second half.”

He added: “Without being too optimistic, as we are aware of the macroeconomic climate, we are working on a solid result for the rest of the year. Of course our cycle is very short, as we work on consignments for the next three months. I would say we want to be realistic not optimistic.”

Claude Monet’s ‘Waterloo Bridge

Leading Christie’s 20th/21st Century evening sale in London in June was Claude Monet’s ‘Waterloo Bridge, effet de brume’ from 1904 that sold for £26m (£30.1m with premium). It was one of over 40 works painted by the artist of the London scene.

One important thing to note, Cerutti added, was “the pace at which the art market has evolved in the last 24 months, the way its accessibility has increased. Now we have up to 1.2m online viewers of auctions. We used to see 10-15% new buyers, now 25% are new buyers. While the supply may remain similar the audience of the art market has become broader, they are less intimidated and this may counter some risk exposure to the current climate.”

Christie's sold seven of the 12 most expensive artworks at auction in the first half and was confident of its pipeline for the rest of the year.

Shot Sage Blue Marilyn

Shot Sage Blue Marilyn by Andy Warhol – $170m (£136m) – or $195m (£158.5m) with fees – at Christie’s New York in May 2022. It was second highest auction price of all time.

Among consignment highlights for the coming months is the Ann and Gordon Getty collection to be sold on October in New York.

The auction house said it was pleased at the depth of the market, not just at the very high end (which seemingly remains strong).

Cerutti added that through the pandemic Christie’s changed its business model, growing digital sales and increasing private sales.

Veronica Scarpati

Christie's Veronica Scarpati selling a Picasso in March.

Sales were strong in luxury items and the growth in younger buyers continued.

It said 30% of all buyers in the first half of the year are new to Christie’s, and 34% of these new buyers are millennials (up from 31% in 2021).

Online-only sales continued to grow. Compared to pre-pandemic levels in the first half of 2019, sales are up 292% with the average lot value of $15,000.

It said that more than half of all lots offered online were luxury sales and the luxury division remains the number one recruiter (47%) of new buyers to online.

Christie's said e-commerce continues to be a strong driver of “client engagement across all departments with 63% of new buyers entering online”. 

Anthea Peers, president of EMEA at Christie’s, added: “The younger buyers are very active online. They arrive online but there is also great engagement in the rooms and a strong appetite to be part of the events and attend the sales. They are keen to be part of what we are doing but remain very active on social media.”

The return of in-person auctions and events has also boosted sales, the firm said.

Jussi Pylkkänen, global president of Christie’s, said: “There has never been a greater time to be an auctioneer. The combination of live sales and digital bidding is amazing. For instance, at the Givenchy sales we had bidders from 70 countries.”

Cécile Verdier

Cécile Verdier, présidente of Christie's France, selling the Hubert de Givenchy: Collectionneur sale in Paris in June. Image credit: Nina Slavcheva.

Regionally the total global auction sales were split with the US accounting for 44% of sales, EMEA had 34% of sales and Asia 22%.

In Numbers

Christie’s first half 2022

  • £3.3bn ($4.1bn) Total sales  – up 34% in £ and 18% in $ on the same period last year
  • £2.8bn in auction sales
  • £500m private sales  
  • 22,085 lots sold at auction 
  • 87% sell through rate
  • 68 online-only sales in 2022 (vs 76 in H1 2021)
  • £120m generate from online sales 
  • $15,000 average online lot value 
  • €942,000 the most expensive lot sold online in H1 (Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale)
  • $413.3m in luxury auction sales – up 18%
  • $400m of auction sales for philanthropic causes