Auction sales reach new heights in 2012, despite slowdown in China

Report Details
Date: 11 February 2013
Number of Pages: 5
Type of Report: Market Report

Name Of Researchers
Anders Petterson
Nathan Engelbrecht


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Total auction sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in the Chinese art, Old Masters, Impressionist & Modern, and Contemporary categories grew by 5.9% in 2012 to US$6.64 billion (including Buyer’s premium), from US$6.27 billion in 2011. Worldwide Chinese art was the only category to register a decline in Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction sales in 2012 of 29%.

The Impressionist & Modern market grew by 8.6% in 2012 to US$1.89 billion, from US$1.74 billion in 2011, while the Old Master market was up 56.5%, from US$313 million in 2011 to US$490 million in 2012. Contemporary art increased by 32.5%, from US$2.06 billion in 2011 to US$2.73 billion in 2012, contributing the largest dollar increase to the overall total.

Until 2007, the Impressionist & Modern category was the most important revenue generator for Christie’s and Sotheby’s. However, in the last two years the Contemporary market has accounted for the lion’s share of auction turnover.

This is partly driven by new buyers with a taste for modern and contemporary art and with the ambition of building up a significant art collection in a short space of time. Few of the other more traditional collecting categories (Old Master and Impressionist) can provide the quality of supply to satisfy market demand.