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March 06, 2008

Art Report Says 60% of February Sale Lots Missed Estimate

Well... there's been some record art sales going on in London the last few days... and while to the total Jill_greenberg_deniability sales dollars might be bigger then ever.. prices are really starting to show some real scary weakness. Could this huge art party really be over??

Here's a story today by Scott Reyburn from bloomberg news... (photo added by MAO.. photo created by Jill Greenberg, "Deniability, 2005" )

U.K Art Report Says 60% of February Sale Lots Missed Estimate

2008-03-06 01:05 (New York) By Scott Reyburn

March 6 (Bloomberg) -- About 60 percent of lots in a record series of contemporary-art auctions in London failed to achieve expected prices, according to research company ArtTactic.

The evening sales at Christie's International, Sotheby's and Phillips de Pury & Co. raised 189.8 million pounds ($378.4

million) in February, the most for a series of contemporary sales in the British capital.

According to London-based ArtTactic's March ``Rawfacts''

bulletin, published today, most items sold for bids (or were left

unsold) below or at the lower end of their catalog estimates, indicating that sellers and auction houses' expectations were not being met. These bid prices did not include auction-house fees, ArtTactic said.

ArtTactic's Managing Director Anders Petterson said that 73 percent of works at Christie's Feb. 6 evening auction failed to achieve mid-estimate prices. The equivalent contemporary-art sales at Sotheby's and Phillips de Pury on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28 saw 61 percent and 53 percent of lots, respectively, unable to attract mid-estimate bidding.

``The auction houses are continually raising the stakes at the top end of the market,'' said Petterson. ``But this masks how demand is slowing in the middle. Auction valuations of contemporary art are now out of synch with demand.''

Petterson, a former JPMorgan Chase & Co. bond trader who founded ArtTactic in 2001, said a majority of the lots at Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips de Pury's evening auctions of contemporary art in London and New York has been failing to achieve mid-estimate prices since October 2007.

Bacon Sales

ArtTactic said 10 lots accounted for 70 percent of the total of sales at both Christie's and Sotheby's, where Francis Bacon paintings sold for 26.3 million pounds and 20 million pounds, respectively.

Sotheby's total of 95 million pounds with fees was a record for any contemporary-art sale held in Europe, the auction house said.

In total, including the 4.4 million pounds with fees achieved at Phillips's Feb. 29 day sale, Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips de Pury took 250.1 million pounds with fees for their February auctions of contemporary art. This was a record for a London series of sales, representing a 59 percent increase on February 2007.

``There's a huge difference in price between the best and the very good,'' said Cheyenne Westphal, chairman of contemporary art, in an interview after Sotheby's sale.

Westphal said there are 26 other versions of the 1983 Gerhard Richter ``Kerze (Candle)'' painting that sold for a quadruple-estimate 8 million pounds, setting a record for the artist, according to the auction result tracker, Artnet.

``The problem for the auction houses is that they have to find these masterpieces for every sale,'' said Petterson. ``From what we're hearing from dealers, things are slower. From now on, every auction is going to be a test of the market.''

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)

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Oh Debbie!!

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