Saturday - 25 October 2014

Sotheby’s post strong annual sales results

30 January 2012Written by Ivan Macquisten

SOTHEBY’S have posted $4.9bn in worldwide sales for 2011, marginally up on 2010. The United States remains the company's primary market, accounting for just over $1.9bn of sales, with the UK second at $1.5bn. Continental Europe yielded $527m, while Asia - largely Hong Kong-based sales - totalled $959m.

The company's biggest grossing sale of the year was the $315.8m Contemporary art evening sale in New York on November 9, followed by the $199.8m Impressionist and Modern art evening sale that took place, also in New York, a week earlier. Together they account for 10.5% of the entire year's sales total.

Dedicated Contemporary art sales, as a whole, brought in around $860m-870m, while those focusing on Impressionist and Modern art totalled around $1.48bn. Neither of these figures, nor those for other specific disciplines, take into account additional material that may have formed part of mixed sales or single-owner collections.

Of the other leading disciplines, jewellery made around $380m, Old Masters - paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture - around $150m, Asian art around $165m and antiquities close to $50m.

The importance of Chinese paintings and works of art was clearly underlined by a total of more than $650m.

Further details of the company's results have yet to be released, but the overall picture shows an encouraging performance in the context of the severe global downturn, reflecting the strength of the Far Eastern economies and the attractiveness of fine art, jewellery and works of art as alternative assets against the backdrop of weak stock and bond markets.

Sotheby's are also reported to have moved to protect their interests in the Chinese art market by naming and shaming two non-payers.

Both Sotheby's and Christie's now require mainland Chinese bidders to submit deposits when bidding at significant levels in this area of the market.

Now a Financial Times report has revealed that Sotheby's are suing two bidders who allegedly owe more than HK$150m between them - and have taken the unprecedented move of publicising the legal action.

The two, who are both said to have paid deposits, have been named as Ma Dong, a man from the Daxing district in Beijing, and Ren Chunxia, a woman with an address in Jinan, eastern China.

Mr Ma is said to have bid successfully for three paintings at just under HK$50m in total on October 4. The day before Ren Chunxia reportedly bid a total of HK$45m for two oil paintings by the Chinese master Wu Guanzhong. She is also being pursued over a bid of HK$69m - a record sum - for a work by abstract artist Zao Wou-ki, on the same day.

Further information has yet to be released on progress in the two cases.

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