Every year, at the beginning of December in London, Christie’s and Sotheby’s arrange a set of auctions focusing on Old Masters. This year, Sotheby’s called the week “Old Masters Week”, while Christie’s combined Antiques with Old Masters and named it “Classic Week”.
Ahead of this year’s Old Masters week, Pi-eX Research looked at the past thirteen years, to clarify the types of auctions included in the London December Old Master week and outline potential trends and changes.
Old Master auctions are arranged by the auction houses according to the types of artworks:
In addition to the yearly Old Masters evening sales (in Black) and the Old Masters Day sales (in grey), the schedule below shows that the London December Old Master week consists of a series of auctions, arranged according to the types of works: Old Masters Drawings Sales, Old Masters Prints sales and Old Masters Sculpture sales.
Occasionally one of the auction house may add a curated sale or a private collection sale, but this does not happen as often as it does for Contemporary or Impressionist art weeks.
A controlled number of lots offered for sale
As in other categories (Contemporary and Impressionist art), the number of lots catalogued at auctions has been decreasing over the past few years.
In the case of the London December Old Master sales, the graph above shows that the reduction in the number of lots happened particularly in the years 2010 to 2013 and that it has been stable since then.
From Christie’s to Sotheby’s
The value of art traded by the two auction houses in the London December Old Masters Week has been quite volatile over the past 13 years, from around 40m GBP in 2007, 2008, 2015 and 2016 to almost 100m GBP in 2009 and 2018.
As shown in the graph above, Christie’s and Sotheby’s alternate as key generator of revenue for the week. While Christie’s dominated the December London Old Master Sales in 2009 and 2018, Sotheby’s clearly was leading the Week from 2012 to 2014.
For more insights on the London December Old Masters auctions, check out: