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Tuesday, 08 December 2015 11:55

A Look at Art Basel Miami Beach’s Top Sales

"I wish I brought a lot more art," said New York art dealer Sean Kelly toward the end of the latest edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach. "We had a phenomenal fair."

Based on reports from dealers this weekend, the pace of both major and middle market sales continued at the same brisk pace that marked the VIP preview Wednesday, December 2 and continued on the following day.

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Art auctions used to be a gentlemen’s business. Now the gloves are off.

As art sales face their first major test since the August financial market rout, auction houses are jockeying not only for trophy artworks but also for the best positions to highlight them at the November auctions in New York. The result is a shakeup in a schedule that for years was tightly coordinated, with Christie’s and Sotheby’s traditionally alternating who goes first. Even the weekends are no longer off limits; in a surprising move, Phillips, the smallest of the three, switched its main sale to a Sunday.

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Art is about life and the art world is about money,” Damien Hirst famously said. And with the European Fine Art Foundation estimating $57.3 billion in global art sales last year, his observation has never rung more true. But as art prices soar, ensuring the authenticity of one’s artwork (read: its value) is becoming an increasingly muddled and costly affair.

Four years ago, the Andy Warhol Foundation dissolved its authentication board, the official arbiter holding sway over which works are certified as those of the artist’s and those that are not.

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China has lost its place as the world leader of public auctions of works of art, according to a report by Artprice that was released to the AFP. Fuelled by major sales in New York, the US has overtaken the Asian giant, which is now followed closely by the UK.

This is “an unexpected rebound when, year after year, China seemed confident in holding its place at number one,” says Thierry Ehrmann, the president and founder of the Artprice database and index firm.

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Though the art market continues to post huge gains, six-month figures released by Christie’s today show at $4.5 billion a flat line and close to virtual tie for what the market leader firm achieved for the same period in 2014. That jumbo figure includes both auction and private sales, the latter contributing $515 million to the overall tally, substantially down from $828.2 million achieved for the same period in 2014.

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The collection of the highly regarded sculptor and philanthropist Lolo Sarnoff will be presented over several several sales in New York and London throughout the spring. The selection of work on offer  spans important Impressionist & Modern Art, follows Sotheby’s legendary six-day, 700 lot auction in 1978 of the collection of Lolo Sarnoff’s step-father, Robert von Hirsch. Works by artists such as Picasso, Chagall and Renoir are expected to sell for above the estimates. 

Warren Weitman, Chairman of Sotheby’s Americas, commented: “It is a great privilege for Sotheby’s to present works from this extraordinary collection."

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Wednesday, 01 April 2015 12:40

Asia Week New York Sees Record-Breaking Sales

The 2015 edition of Asia Week New York ended its nine-day Asian art extravaganza with record-shattering sales totaling $360M, almost doubling last year’s number with an 80% increase of $160M.
Said Carol Conover, chairman of Asia Week New York: “By all accounts, we have succeeded in making New York the destination for buying Asian art, not only for many of the great museums in the United States and abroad, but also for the leading international private collectors. Galleries saw steady and heavy traffic throughout the week, and sales for the four major auction houses reached new highs, making it a great success in terms of revenue in all areas across the board. With the influx of new buyers from China who came here for the sale of The Robert Hatfield Ellsworth Collection at Christies, the exuberance and excitement of the week was palpable.”
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Sotheby’s may find itself in a new shareholder fight even as its battle with billionaire investor Daniel Loeb and search for a new chief executive officer proved costly in 2014.

The New York-based auction house said today that profit fell 9 percent in 2014 as expenses increased. Net income fell to $117.8 million, or $1.69 a share in the 12 months ended Dec. 31, from $130 million, or $1.90 a share in the same period last year, Sotheby’s said today in a statement.

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Sales of Old Masters got off to a slow start as about $42 million of art from the 15th to 19th century was auctioned in New York.

Christie’s sold $36.6 million, missing its low estimate of $54 million in three sales yesterday. Of the 54 lots in its paintings sale, only 22 were sold. Sotheby’s drawings sale totaled $5.3 million, within its estimate of $4.2 million to $5.9 million.

The auctions, which continue through Jan. 30, are offering about $200 million of paintings, drawings and sculptures. The auction houses are trying to revive interest in what had been the most popular category until the 1980s, when other groups such as modern and contemporary art gained favor.

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For the fifth consecutive year, Christie’s has beaten the annual art sales record, clocking up £5.1 billion ($8.4 billion dollars) of sales during 2014, which is up 12 percent on 2013. The figure includes private (as opposed to public) sales of £916 million, and online only sales of £21.4 million. But the majority was for good old-fashioned public auction sales (up 10 per cent to £4.2 billion).

Of the many categories of sale Christie’s holds, the largest by far is for post-war and contemporary art, the driving engine of the auction market. Sales in this category at Christie’s rose by 33 per cent last year to £1.7 billion ($2.8 billion), accounting for an extraordinary 40.5 per cent of public auction sales.

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