Picasso's Femme à la montre

Femme à la montre, a portrait of Marie-Therese Walter from 1932 by Pablo Picasso. It was the highlight of the 31-lot evening sale of the Emily Fisher Landau collection offered on November 8 and sold for $121m (£98.4m).

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The full sales totals include $6.5bn of auction sales (down 1.3% on 2022), $1.2bn of private sales (up 7.9% on 2022) and $0.2bn of inventory sales (with all figures rounded up).

Sotheby’s said that “against a more challenging market backdrop” it “sustained its momentum through successful sales of fresh-to-market masterpieces and high-value lots”.

Demand at the top end of the market remained strong, with two lots selling for over $100m and 73 lots over $1m.

The auction house said 2023 was also a particularly strong year for single owner auctions, with 143 sales of this kind totaling $1.3bn and up 24% from 2022. Among the highlights was the Emily Fisher Landau collection.

Across the year it held 515 auctions from 55 departments in 10 selling locations around the world.


It also highlighted its success in luxury sales at auction, bringing in $2.5bn.

Josh Pullan, global head of Sotheby’s luxury division, said: “The rise of new offerings, combined with digital and on-the-ground experiences have dramatically expanded Sotheby’s audience to a new and younger demographic of collectors.”

Sotheby’s said there has been a “very significant shift in the generational profile of the most active clients in the market... This next generation is already making its presence felt at Sotheby’s, with Gen X accounting for over 40% of bidders in the $1m+ market, and Gen X and Millennials active both in newly established categories and in high-profile heritage sales.”

Looking ahead, Mari-Claudia Jiménez, Sotheby’s chairman, president of Americas and head global business development, added: “Given that we are now in the midst of the world’s largest-ever generational wealth and asset transfer, we can expect to see a shift in the demographics of art collecting over the next 20-30 years as a new generation of collectors reshapes the art market of today and tomorrow.”

Rivals reports

Christie’s and Bonhams both published their full-year figures in December.

Christie’s reported its total preliminary sales across its business (including auctions, private sales and other revenue) reached in $6.2bn (£5bn) 2023, down 25% on the previous year.

Sotheby’s figures include art, collectables and luxury as well as classic and collectors’ cars and real estate sales.

Phillips recently provided ATG with its annual figures.

It produced $1bn in global sales in 2023 which was 23% down on the previous year’s reported sales of £1.3bn. Phillips said the 2023 result “marks the third highest in company history, and also the third consecutive year Phillips’ totals have achieved $1bn or more”.

Auction sales reached $840.7m (with the remainder attributed to private sales, exhibitions and retail).

Phillips added that 50% of buyers were first-time buyers with the firm and a third of its buyers were Millennial and Gen Z collectors.

For Christie’s and Bonhams sales see ATG no 2624.