International Art Appeal Boosts Christie's Sales; Asian Clients Significant Bidders

Chrissy Coleman Asia Correspondent 18 January 2013

International Art Appeal Boosts Christie's Sales; Asian Clients Significant Bidders

Christie’s worldwide sales of art rose 10 per cent from 2011, with Asian clients representing 19 per cent of registered bidders, and online buyers set to take the industry by storm.

Christie’s auctioneer realised worldwide sales of $6.27 billion, up 10 per cent on 2011 (figures include buyer’s premium). This includes private sales of $1 billion, an increase of 26 per cent on the same period last year, and represents the highest annual total in both company and art market history, the auctioneer said in a statement yesterday
Global auctions welcomed bidders from 136 countries highlighting the international appeal of art. While sale totals for Asian art and auction sales in Hong Kong fell from the record levels of 2011, Asian clients represented 19 per cent of registered bidders at global sales, a 1 per cent increase on 2011.

An increased participation of Asian collectors at global sale sites was evident at every level of the market, from Rembrandt’s A Man in a Gorget and Cap which sold at the "Evening auction of Old Master and British Paintings" on 3 July in London for $13.2 million, to Christie’s South Kensington, which saw a 10 per cent increase in new registered bidders from the region.

Crowning the sales charts in Hong Kong was an item from the Asian 20th century and contemporary art collection, which achieved a combined sales total of over $87million; La forêt blanche II  by Chu Teh-Chun sold for close to $8 million, setting a world auction record for the artist.

Strong Asia market

At the time (December 2012), president of Christie’s Asia, François Curiel, said: “These figures dispel any doubt that the Chinese and Asian markets remain vibrant and strong, with active buyers and major collectors from the region participating at high levels. The quality of works offered consolidates the role of Hong Kong as a leading auction centre that attracts a global audience competing for the best works available.”
Globally, Christie’s sold 686 works at auction for over $1 million and 49 for over $10 million. The market at more accessible price levels represented the majority of transactions and continues to perform strongly, said the firm, suggesting a surge in new entrants to the industry – in fact 19 per cent of all registered bidders were new clients.

The web is hailed as a key source of new business for the auction house, considering that 2012 saw an 11 per cent increase in visitors to its website. Christie’s online initiatives continued to make the art market more accessible, increasingly offering online-only auctions in 2012, including the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor in December 2011.

Steven P. Murphy, chief executive officer, Christie’s said: “Our third straight year of record results is a sign that more people in more places in the world are captivated by art and are seeking to acquire it, and Christie’s has aligned itself with collectors and their needs.”

He added: “ More importantly, this trend is apparent at every level of the art market, from under £1,000 ($1,600) to over £50 million ($80 million), as technological advancements highlight the appeal and the ease of engaging with Christie’s and the works of art we handle. Accessibility to the market is key and we have continued to develop our online presence.”

Post-War and Contemporary art led the categories with record global auction sales of $1.6 billion – a 34 per cent increase over 2011. The category saw increased demand at every level, with a 14 per cent growth in the number of registered bidders for works of art under £100,000 ($160,290).

Notable increases were also seen for impressionist and modern art which realised auctions sales of $997.7 million (up 14 per cent); and "Old Masters & 19th Century Art" which totalled $322.6 million (up 26 per cent).

The highest auction price for the year at Christie’s was paid for Mark Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow which sold on 8 May in New York for $86,882,500, establishing a world record price for any contemporary work of art sold at auction.

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