The numbers for 2018 are officially in for Christie’s and they’re among some of their strongest in history. The privately-owned auction house reports total revenues of $7 billion (£5.3 billion), including private sales, which is an increase of 7% in earnings overall. Boasting an 82% sale through rate overall, Christie’s, thus continues to lead the world art market in sales. 2018 was narrowly edged out by 2014 and 2015 – which saw $8.4 billion and $7.4 billion respectively – as their strongest year, but no one seems upset by the auction house’s impressive year.
16% of sales during 2018 were generated by the sale of two major estates handled by Christies. In early 2018, a staggering $832.6 million was garnered when Christie’s sold the remainder of the 15,000-piece collection of the late Peggy and David Rockefeller – $646 million of which came from a single auction. Later, in November, the auction of Barney Ebsworth’s collection generated $323.1 million and set 13 artist auction records. These auctions carried financial guarantees and the details of the sales were not disclosed so the actual profit from these sales remains unknown.
In addition to these high-profiting sales, the auction house disclosed substantial gains in other areas as well. Private sales were up 4% accounting for $653.3 million of 2018’s revenue. New buyers were up by 32% with 41% of those buyers being online bidders making online buying the most lucrative for introducing new buyers to Christie’s. With that in mind, online-only auctions rose by 16% bringing in $87 million.
Christie’s Asia sales brought in $815.5 million seeing an increase of 5% over 2017 and 23% of sales overall for 2018 despite a slowing art market. Figures did fall, however, in Europe and the Middle East by 8% down $1.8 billion in part due to political distress in the area.
Topping the charts in terms of single artworks were Edward Hopper’s Chop Suey and David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures). Chop Suey (1929), from the Ebsworth collection, was one of the last works by Hopper to remain in private hands. Originally promised to the Seattle Art Museum, the work was ultimately left to the Hopper family who sold it for $91.9 million. Hockey’s 1972 painting garnered $90 million making it the highest selling artwork by a living artist to date beating out Jeff Koons for the top spot.
In Christie’s statement on the year’s totals, chief executive officer Guillaume Cerutti said:
‘2018 was record-breaking at Christie’s with several major collections and continued demand across all categories. While signs of a more challenging macro-political and economic environment increased towards the end of last year, we remain confident of continued success in 2019, thanks to judicious planning and continued focus on curation, selection and pricing.’