Art Market

Sotheby’s sold $2.5 billion thus far in 2020, marking a 25 percent decrease from last year.

Justin Kamp
Aug 3, 2020 5:08PM, via Sotheby's

Oliver Barker conducts Sotheby’s virtual auction on June 30th. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s announced that it has reached $2.5 billion in sales volume thus far in 2020 following the close of its summer auctions. The amount marks a 25 percent decrease from the same period in 2019, when the global total was $3.3 billion. This year, the auction house made $1.2 billion in sales across its New York, Hong Kong, London, Paris and Geneva locations during the two-month period in which it hosted its two live-streamed global auctions. Of that sum, $575 million was made through private sales, with the remainder of the total coming from sales conducted before the pandemic.

The decline in overall volume was despite a sharp rise in online sales, which grew 540 percent when compared to the same period in 2019. The firm has held more than 180 online auctions this year to date which brought in more than $285 million, an amount three times higher than the total for all of 2019. Asian collectors were also a considerable presence, bringing in $450 million so far this year and accounting for 20 percent of new buyers and bidders.

Charles Stewart, Sotheby’s CEO, said in a press release:

The art and luxury markets have proven to be incredibly resilient, and demand for quality across categories is unabated. The power of Asia, combined with the sophistication of established collectors and the appetite of new clients, was central to our success over the past seven months, and particularly since March. And although driven by necessity, it’s clear that our clients’ interest and confidence in technology has fundamentally changed.

The decline in Sotheby’s sales numbers are indicative of a wider depression in auction house totals precipitated by COVID-19. According to ArtTactic’s “Auction Review—1st Half 2020” report, sales made by Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips have fallen from $5.7 billion to $2.9 billion over the same period, a decrease of nearly 50 percent. The report also highlighted the ascendance of online sales as a dominant force, which saw an increase of roughly 500 percent across all three firms.

Further Reading: Banksy Sets Second-Highest Auction Mark at the Last Major Sotheby’s Sale of the Summer

Further Reading: $84.5-Million Francis Bacon Triptych Leads Sotheby’s Marathon Virtual Auction

Justin Kamp
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019