Christie's posts record $3.5 billion first-half art sales

Mon Jul 16, 2012 8:07pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - Christie's announced record first-half art sales of 2.2 billion pounds ($3.5 billion) on Tuesday, a rise of 13 percent over the same period of 2011 and further evidence of the strength of the high end of the market.

The world's largest auctioneer reported auction sales of 1.8 billion in the first six months of 2012, seven percent up on a year ago, while private art sales soared 53 percent to 413 million pounds. All figures include buyer's premium.

However, there was a steep drop in Asian and Middle Eastern auction revenues to 234 million pounds, 23 percent down on the first half of 2011 as rampant Chinese buying cooled.

In terms of auction categories, the post-war and contemporary sector rose by 34 percent to 576 million pounds, jewelry jumped 28 percent to 190 million and old masters and 19th century art was up 50 percent to 72 million.

The top lot at Christie's during the first half of the year was Mark Rothko's "Orange, Red, Yellow" which sold for 53.9 million pounds ($86.9 million) at auction in New York in May.

Two Yves Klein works came in second and third place, with "Le rose du bleu" fetching 23.6 million pounds in London in June setting an auction record for the artist.

A Henry Moore sculpture, "Reclining Figure: Festival", also set an artist record when it sold at a London auction in February for 19.1 million pounds.

Sotheby's, Christie's main rival, sold Edvard Munch's "The Scream" for $120 million in New York in May, setting a new auction record for any work of art.

Christie's said bidders had registered from 124 countries during the period under review and that 19 percent of all registered bids were placed by new clients.   Continued...

People attend a preview of an upcoming auction at Christie's in New York, June 1, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Thayer