May 4, 2018

Sotheby’s posted a slight loss in its first quarter earnings report, but sales were up from a year ago.

Sotheby’s CEO Tad Smith announced that the auction house posted a $6.5 million loss in its first quarter, an improvement over the first quarter in 2017, when the house reported a net loss of $11.3 million. The 42% year-to-year improvement sparked a sense of optimism, which was buoyed by the modest 43% rise in share price that was reported in the call Friday morning. The first quarter for Sotheby’s is traditionally quiet, as most sales are consolidated into the second and fourth quarters of the year. But Sotheby’s 2018 figures were impacted by a shift in the Hong Kong sales from the second quarter to the first. The adjustment added $130 million in net sales, contributing to the 42% uptick. A 70% increase in private sales, which brought in a total of $247 million, also helped boost the bottom line.
The auction house is expecting an eventful second quarter of 2018, which is set to include the lucrative May sales in New York and auctions in London in June. Sotheby’s will auction off Amedeo Modigliani’s  Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) (1917) in its Impressionist and Modern art evening sale on May 14th. That one work alone is expected to sell for more than $150 million. “We remain on track to have an even better year in 2018 than we did in 2017,” Smith said in a statement Thursday morning.