Yes, 2004 was a great year
LONDON/NEW YORK. Figures published by the two leading auction houses, plus
research by the online art data company artprice.com confirm that last year was
extremely strong for the art market.
Last month Sotheby's reported that its auction sales in 2004 totalled $2.694 billion
(£1.417 million), 59% up on the previous year. Its revenue was up by 43%
at $443.1 million (£233.1 million), but this was not correspondingly prof-itable,
as the firm had to cut commission rates to secure the high-end consignments.
The firm has dug itself out of loss and reported "income", which basically
means profits, of $86.67 million (£45.09 mil-lion), whereas it lost $20.65
million (£10.74 million) in 2003. However, it has included in the "income"
figure $45.74 million in license fees from the sale of Sotheby's real estate arm
to Cedant, so real profits stand at $40.9 million.
Sotheby's report also reveals that in 2004 its "inventory" (meaning
art that had been guaranteed but unsold) was worth $33.8 million. Guarantees to
the tune of $22.1 million have been given on property which will be sold in the
first half of this year.
Meanwhile, Christie's, which is a private company and does not report its profits,
said its sales achieved £1.35 billion ($2.46 billion), an increase of 13%
in pounds sterling but 25% in dollars over 2003, because of the exchange rate.
Private sales accounted for £83 million. These included the Duccio from
the Stocklet collection, which went to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art for
$45 million (see p. 12).
In its annual survey, Artprice.com, the online database, confirms that 2004 was
a strong year. According to Artprice's "Market trends" report released
last month, turnover at auction leapt by 30% last year compared to 2003, due both
to high-profile auctions and to a sharp increase in average prices, which grew
19% in just one year. This figure is based on repeat sales of some 200,000 works
of art, which means the firm is comparing like with like. Should the growth contin-ue
at the same rate, says Artprice, then this year prices will overtake the historic
market highs of 1990.
The report also analyses the principal sale centres and sig-nals an increase in
the US share, up to 46.5% (42% in 2003), while London represented 26.9% (down
from 28% in 2003). France lost ground, falling to 7.2% from 9.2% in the previous
copyright ©2005 Georgina Adams - THE ART NEWSPAPER
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