2011 Contemporary Arts Sales up 35% as Christie’s and Sotheby’s top $1.6 Billion

Bullet Shih Dec, 2011 0
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According to Bloomberg calculations, Sotheby’s and Christie’s made a combined $1.7 billion during their 12 evening sales of contemporary art in2011 with Sotheby’s $844.1 million barely edging out Christie’s $834.3 million.  Contemporary art is generally used to define art produced after WWII, however as the decades go by it will be interesting to see how this definition will shift as the decades go by as one to this year’s stars was a Clifford Still painting executed in 1949 which realized $61.7 million.  The painting consigned by the city of Denver and sold through Sotheby’s in order to raise money for a new Still museum.   Still died over 30 years ago in 1980.  Bloomberg credits the return of investors seeking a safe haven from the turmoil of the financial markets and also makes a point to highlight the growing significance of Asian buyers.  Another of this year’s stars, the painting I Can See the Whole Room!… and There’s Nobody in It! done by pop artist Roy Litchenstein in 1961 commanded $43.2 million at Christie’s October sale.    As the painting was purchased at auction in 1988 for a mere $2.1 million, the investment return of 1957.1% slightly beats the S&P 500’s cumulative return of roughly 835% over the same period.  As US 30 yr Govt bonds are currently yielding a paltry 2.9% a year and bank statements have become increasingly unsuitable as wall decorations in this age of austerity, it is likely that Richters will continue to fly off of the walls of the auction houses for the forseeable future.

Bloomberg article


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