Dissecting The London Postwar Sales

The postwar and contemporary evening sales in London this month brought in more than £240 million (about $370 million) in total sales for Sotheby’s and Christie’s—a banner year for the annual auctions. Today we slice into the numbers to see how the big two achieved those results. As the graph above shows, almost exactly half of their haul came from only three artists—Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly, and Francis Bacon; more than 60 artists were together responsible for making up the remaining 50 percent. To put it simply: the numbers were huge, but only because the two houses were able to secure a few hotly desired works, led by a £30.4 million ($46.4 million) Richter at Sotheby’s. (In comparison, the top lot at Phillips was a £2.89 million Ai Weiwei.) That fierce competition for so-called masterpiece material has led some houses to make generous deals with consignors and guarantors, potentially endangering their bottoms lines. It shows no sign of letting up soon.

Data was compiled by Skate’s using the auction houses as sources.

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