Post-War & Contemporary Evening Auctions (Fall 2010)

Consignors Likely to Pressure Auction Houses to Raise Estimates for Fall Auctions

As the Post-War & Contemporary market had the most dramatic correction (up to 50%+) of all major sectors from the highs reached by June 2008, it is now experiencing the strongest results relative to its current and significantly reduced pre-sale estimates. This suggests that consignors in the fall season will put pressure on auction house specialists to increase auction estimates, and unlike in the Impressionist & Modern sector, the specialists might likely oblige, as prices are still significantly below their market highs and buyer demand is increasing. One auction house executive speculated that exceptionally strong buyer demand in the New York Post-War & Contemporary day sales might have been driven by European collectors looking for a store of value given the increasing weakness of the euro.

The Post-War & Contemporary sector has an existing deep collector base with many signs that this group will only grow larger. Some of the increase is coming from collectors whose tastes have changed and who are overlooking more traditional sectors. Early indications suggest collectors are moving away from regional art and into more internationally collected categories, such as contemporary. A close watch will need to be kept over the coming seasons to see if this trend continues.

New York – May 2010

Pent-up Demand Coupled with Exceptional and Fresh Property Leads to Top Results

As the sector has endured a significant correction from its highs, pent-up demand coupled with exceptional property, including Works from the Collection of Michael Crichton, led to lively bidding. Partially driven by a growing number of international collectors, the top of the market was thriving. More notably, in contrast to May 2009, even at the mid-range price level, there was steady bidding, and the vast majority of Post-War & Contemporary Art offered at auction sold within or above the estimate range. It should be noted, however, that relative to the 2008 peak, estimates and realized prices have a significant way to go to reach previous levels.

London – June 2010

London Results Markedly Different Than Those in New York

The London evening auctions were less than stellar. At Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the total hammer prices came in below the sales’ total low estimates. 17% of the lots being offered for sale failed to find buyers; these lots comprised 23% of the auctions’ low estimate. Overall, Christie’s auction was slightly stronger than Sotheby’s, with 67% of the works selling within or above the estimate range, while Sotheby’s sold less than 55% of its lots above the low estimate. Phillips de Pury’s evening auction of Post-War & Contemporary Art faired even worse. Bidding on 83% of the lots failed to reach the low estimate, and a mere 2% sold above the high.


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