During the month of February, auctions at the top three auction houses are traditionally focused on the United Kingdom. This is in fact the month when the high profile Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist sales as well as the Contemporary evening and day sales take place in London at each of the auction houses.
This year was no exception and Pi-eX MACRO report on worldwide February sales at the top three auction houses provides interesting insights into the strength of the London market as well as the art market in general:
1. Back to 2016:
While the total combined auction revenue at Christie's, Sotheby's and Phillips in February 2020 was higher than in February 2019, it is better to compare February 2020 with February 2016 as this was the last year when both London Impressionist and Contemporary evening sales were arranged in February. From 2017 to 2019, London Contemporary evening sales in fact took place in March, resulting in much smaller February revenue for the auction houses. Using 2016 as a benchmark, 2020 shows a disappointing 18% decline from $660m in February 2016 to $542m in February 2020.
2. Less than in 2010:
The combined number of lots catalogued at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips in February 2020 was 3,353. This was less than a third of the total number of lots catalogued in 2007. It was even less than the 4,099 lots catalogued in 2010, which so far was the smallest number of lots catalogued in February over the previous 13 years.
3. Still a very UK focused month:
Traditionally, auction revenue in the month of February comes from auctions arranged in the UK, except for February 2009 when the exceptional Private Collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé switched the spotlight to France.
This past February, despite the addition of new online sales in New York, Paris and Milan, most of the revenue generated during the month was still obtained from sales arranged in London, UK.
For more information on monthly auction sales and revenue, consult Pi-eX MACRO Monthly reports February 2020.