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Boom goes even higher with $3.24bn Sotheby’s total

13 August 2007Written by ATG Reporter

BOOMING art auctions and a massive growth in private sales have helped Sotheby’s to another set of record totals – this time for the first six months of 2007.

Revenues are up 41.4 per cent on the first six months of 2006 to $486.9m, with related profits boosted by 92.5 per cent to $131.7m.

Reflecting the growing importance of private sales and dealer sales to their business, Sotheby’s now focus on a joint consolidated sales figure that includes these and auction revenues.

For the first half of 2007, this saw a 45 per cent leap to a record $3.24bn, all but matching Christie’s $3.25bn total.

As Christie’s do not publish profit and loss figures, what cannot be compared is the difference in costs resulting from them selling around twice as many lots as Sotheby’s to achieve the similar total.

Private sales at Sotheby’s for January to June accounted for $334m alone, a rise of 43 per cent and, significantly, more than they took for the whole of 2006.

The weakness of the dollar compared to other currencies hit revenues slightly and costs increased with the recruitment of more key personnel and bonus payouts linked to improved performance.

But it is the fine art sale figures in London and New York that tell the most important story of the period.

May’s contemporary art sales in New York saw totals soar 86 per cent over the 2006 series to $344.6m, while the Impressionist sales there were up 36 per cent at $337.2m.

London’s June sales were the best ever, with $402.5m taken in a week, including $209.4m for Impressionist and Modern art and $193.1m for contemporary art, more than double last year’s $77.6m total.

Individual records included the $65m (£32.5m) hammer in New York on May 15 for Mark Rothko’s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose), the top price for a contemporary work of art at auction, and the $25.5m (£13.4m) paid by London dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi for the classical bronze statue of Artemis and the stag in New York in June. In dollar terms this set a new record for any sculpture at auction.

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