The combined £23m total from five evening and day sales held in mid-June at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams (25/20/12.5-13.9% buyer’s premium), together offering nearly 400 lots of 20th century British art, was down £12.5m on last year’s equivalent June sales and made £5.5m less than the series in November.
One likely reason for the dip was the lack of blue-chip consignments on offer, with only three works across the series estimated over £1m (Christie’s alone had five in the November series).
For the auction houses, factors such as Brexit and the present volatility in the global markets may have made it trickier to source high-end, unseen material – already a challenge at the top end of any market.
Spending on the other hand was fairly robust during the series, with a number of highvalue lots getting away within or above hopes, a smattering of new auction records – including for Elisabeth Frink and Frank Bowling – and a respectable selling rate percentage within the 70s at Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
Christie’s achieved a £14.38m evening sale total, more than double that of rival Sotheby’s, where £6.51m worth of art changed hands across its evening and day sales.
Christie’s said bidders came from 16 different countries and four continents, drawn to the “global appeal for fresh to market works by artists that defined and shaped the development of art in Britain during the 20th century”.
The market remains an essentially domestic one for now, however, with London still the prime spot to buy and sell the best of 20th century British art.