Christie’s selling Jean-Michel Basquiat

In the first half of 2023 Christie’s top lot was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile) which sold for a premium-inclusive $67.1m in New York on May 15. Pictured is Christie’s Georgina Hilton on the rostrum selling the painting.

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However, the figure is above average compared with the past five years.

Christie’s chief executive Guillaume Cerutti said there is a “challenging macro environment” and the strong sales of 2021 and 2022 were tough comparisons.

The auction house was confident for the future and highlighted strong sell-through rates and a growth in new buyers as reasons to be positive.

Jussi Pylkkänen, president at Christie’s, described the market as robust with “buyers never stronger”. He said the downturn was in part a supply issue with some sellers hesitant to consign.

Cerutti said its 87% sell-through rate should give confidence to consignors for the rest of the year. Consignments already secured for the second half of 2023 include a Rothschild collection in New York in the autumn.

The increase in new buyers and the expansion of online bidding were also highlights for the first-half period, Cerutti said.

Christie’s reported that during the first half that 80% of bids were made online – across live sales and online-only auctions. This is double compared with 2019.

For live auctions the figure was 48% of bids made online, compared with 25% in 2019.

Cerutti said: “Our business has shifted. Our clients are confident to bid online even in live sales.”

In terms of new buyers, Christie’s said that 31% of its buyers are new to the business so far in 2023 and 38% of these are millennial buyers.

The firm said it continues to innovate its sales format and added that there has been a return to buyers wanting to be in the room despite the rise of online bidding.

Changes have included moving its flagship London ‘evening’ sales to late afternoon to allow Asian buyers to participate more easily.

Christie's first-half 2023 results

In Numbers:

Total sales (turnover): $3.2bn (£2.5bn) (down 23% from H1 2022)

Auction sales: $2.7bn (£2.2bn) (down 24% from H1 2022)

Private sales: $484m (£388m) (down 19% from H1 2022)

Online sales: $187m (£150m)

Number of lots sold: 22,100 

Number of auctions: 164 auctions