I t’s officially fall, which means the leaves are turning, the weather is cooling and it’s time for the most exciting auctions of the year. Sotheby’s fall season features a rich slate of sales and experiences that build upon our spectacular performance throughout the year.
From January through June, the auction house recorded a record-high $4.3 billion US in sales, including a single week in May that realized $1.09 billion. Fine art remains at Sotheby’s core, but this year saw strong growth in the luxury market as well as the rapid development of complementary offerings, such as our Buy Now marketplace and Sotheby’s Financial Services.
Despite Challenging Macroeconomic Conditions, the Art Market Is Strong
Between ongoing pandemic restrictions in China, political and economic uncertainty in Europe and worldwide currency fluctuations, the macroeconomic context is challenging. Nonetheless, the art market remains incredibly strong: Sotheby’s record-setting first half of the year sets up a fantastic array of property coming to auction – a sure sign of sellers’ trust in the long-term view. And Sotheby’s is confident that due to the global nature of our art and luxury markets – along with the strong demand we are seeing from collectors and the excellent supply of exceptional art, luxury items and collectibles we are consigning – we will continue to see momentum sustain through the end of the year.
Collector Interest Expands Across Categories
Collectors are increasingly seeking out the best of the best, across ever-widening areas of interest. Sotheby’s focuses on nurturing these categories across attractive online platforms, our broad network of galleries and, of course, at live auction.
The art market reached new highs and set new records this year as global collectors sought exceptional blue-chip art works, while continuing to discover exciting new talents. From the historic results of The Macklowe Collection – which became the most valuable single-owner collection to ever sell at auction – to the record year-to-date high for worldwide Modern & Contemporary Art sales, to the success of ultra-contemporary artists in our Now Evening Auctions, we are seeing collectors drawn to quality and endurance of exceptional art and precious objects.
In luxury, established categories such as Watches and Jewelry have seen strong growth, while newer categories such as Streetwear and Sports Memorabilia, have attracted a new wave of collectors to the excitement of the auction market. RM Sotheby’s, the leading private sales and auctioneer of premium collectible automobiles, just concluded a record-breaking series of auctions at Monterey, which, at $239.2 million, set a record for the highest-grossing automotive auction of all time. In September, Sotheby’s Concierge Auctions, the leading global luxury real estate auction marketplace, sold their exceptional properties in our New York auction room for the first time ever, and will do so again in December.
Demand Goes Global
We continue to see a landscape that is expanding: 127 countries were represented in our bidder and buyer groups in the first half of 2022, of which 38 percent came from North America, 35 percent from Europe and 22 percent from Asia.
The US market, which represented 58 percent of our sales value in the year’s first half, remains notably robust. So does the energy emanating from across Asia and the Pacific, where the collector demographic trends younger – and where we are seeing growing demand. This was clear from the success of our first Modern & Contemporary Art Auction to be held in fifteen years in Singapore, which realized $18 million US – $5 million more than its presale projection. We are also seeing a real and exciting focus on arts and culture coming from the Middle East, reflected in the 75 percent increase in bidders from the region in the last five years.
Digital Engagement Becomes a Permanent Feature
The use of technology – from live-streamed marquee auctions to online sales, from global bids to digital catalogues – is now a permanent and welcome feature of Sotheby’s markets. Incredibly, Sotheby’s sold a market-leading $282 million of art online this year, and more than 90 percent of our bids now come through our online platform or app.
Of course, the in-person experience remains central to art and luxury markets, and Sotheby’s has opened new permanent galleries in Aspen, Monaco and Brussels this year to give collectors in these cities a place to call home.
New Philanthropic Initiatives
Sotheby’s renewed its commitment to making the arts and culture industry more inclusive, sustainable and collaborative through our three guiding pillars of promoting access, protecting the planet and lending our expertise for our communities. This year saw the launch of Sotheby’s Impact initiatives, including the inaugural Sotheby’s Impact Gala on 28 September. Held in support of Instituto Terra, an environmental organization founded by Sebastião Salgado and Lélia Wanick Salgado, the gala raised funds for the nonprofit’s important reforestation work in Brazil, as well as encouraging global awareness about the ecological importance of the Brazilian rainforest.