Christie’s sold $8.4 billion in art in 2022—its best year ever, the house said.
The top line was buoyed in large part by the record-smashing sale of the late billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s collection, which generated $1.6 billion.
Overall, global sales rose 18 percent over last year’s $7.1 billion. Notably, without the Allen sale, Christie’s total would have been lower than it was in 2021 (though it’s a safe bet that the auction house would have also hustled even harder for other consignments).
The result puts Christie’s at the front of the auction-house pack. Sotheby’s reported $6.8 billion in art sales in 2022, down seven percent year over year, and Phillips recorded $1.3 billion, up eight percent. Following Sotheby’s report last week, in which the house cited $8 billion in sales by including newly acquired, non-fine art businesses, Christie’s executives quipped that their totals did not include “cars or real estate.”
Led by Allen, live art auction sales were up 33 percent in 2022, accounting for $7.2 billion of the total. Private sales, which spiked during the pandemic in the absence of IRL events, were down 29 percent for a total of $1.2 billion. Some perhaps unlikely growth areas in the private sector, according to Christie’s, were decorative arts, Old Masters, watches, and Asian contemporary art.
Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti said the results came “despite a challenging macro-environment.” He chalked up the success to three factors: the resilience of the art and luxury market, the success of the “unforgettable” Allen sale along with other top collections, and the “expertise and hard work” of the team. Other A+ collections consigned to the house this past year included those of Ann and Gordon Getty, Anne Bass, and Swiss dealer collector siblings Thomas and Doris Ammann.
The year’s top lot came from the latter collection: the house sold (1964) in May for $195 million against an estimate “in the region of $200 million.”
At the same time that Christie’s worked to get top prices for traditional blue-chip art, management noted it also placed considerable emphasis on new areas to keep younger buyers engaged. Thirty-five percent of all buyers in 2022 were first-timers at Christie’s, the house said, and 34 percent of those new buyers are millennials, up from 31 percent in 2021.
While the house said the fastest growing base of collectors hails from the Asia Pacific region, the total amount of money made from salesrooms in Asia dropped by 20 percent year over year. The biggest regional contributor to the house’s bottom line is the Americas, which generated $4.6 billion, or 40 percent of total revenue.
Christie’s, which jumped into the NFT realm in early 2021 with a genre-validating sale of work by Beeple for a stunning $69 million, said it “remains committed to advancing digital art/NFTs as a serious collecting category within contemporary art” despite some questions raised about “crypto-winter” on a call with journalists this morning. Nevertheless, NFTs contributed far less to the house’s bottom line this year, with a total of 87 NFT lots this year generating a combined total of $5.9 million.