The Auction Scene in May: By the Numbers | BLOUIN ARTINFO
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The Auction Scene in May: By the Numbers

While the top three auctions in May in terms of sales were held at Christie’s New York, the highest priced painting of the month was sold at Sotheby’s. The record sale of Modigliani’s “Nu Couche (Sur le cote gauche)” for $157.2 million was the highlight of the auctions scene in May.

Christie’s and Sotheby’s closely watch New York auctions of Impressionist and Modern Art, which occurred in mid-May, achieved combined sales of $700 million in hammer prices. That compared with combined presale estimates of $335 million to $495 million. The Post-War and Contemporary Art sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips raised a total of $1.02 billion (inclusive of buyer’s premium), with Christie’s auction leading with sales of $499.5 million.

Separately, Christie’s top auction of the month was The Collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller 19th and 20th Century Art, Evening Sale, which achieved a total $646.1 million (including buyer’s premium).  Sotheby’s top auction of the month was its Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, which brought in a total $318.3 million, at which the Modigliani was sold.

Two auctions of Asian and Chinese Modern Art that were held in Hong Kong made the top 15 list for the month of May. Both auctions were 
at Christie’s, and achieved a combined $185.2 million.
The following charts provide a summary of the art auctions in May.

The Top Auctions by Total Sales (including buyer’s premium)

Top Auction Houses and Their Bought-in Rates
Christie’s led the season with a total sale over $2 billion (inclusive of buyer’s premium). Most of the high-selling artworks of the month were at Christie’s barring a few that sold at Sotheby’s. A listing of top 25 artworks sold during the month is presented in the upcoming section. The average bought-in rate was 20.8 percent at Christie’s and 23.6 percent at Sotheby’s.

Top Genres and Their Median/Average Selling Price
The graphic below represents the top genres sold during the month, including the lots on offer, bought-in rate and their average and median prices. Most auctions of this month belonged to Impressionist and Modern Art and Post-War and Contemporary. These two categories registered the highest sales. While these two categories had the highest volume of lots on offer at auctions, their bought-in rates were reasonable at 18.6 percent for Impressionist and Modern and 15.9 percent for Post-war and Contemporary.  But the average bought-in rate of Old Masters remained very high at 34.7 percent. The average sale prices are Post-War and Contemporary and Impressionist and Modern Art were at around $276,000 and $645,000, while their median prices were low at $4,800 and $3,800. The high-selling artworks always skew the average prices to abnormally high-values.

Top Artists by Total Sales and Sale Volume
The top artists by total sales and volume are presented in a four-quadrant format in the graph below.  Picasso with a total sale of $224 million of 24 lots was the top-selling artist followed by Claude Monet with a total sale of $178 million of 10 lots.  The graph below shows the spread of sales/volume data of 7,101 artists whose paintings featured in the May 2018 auctions. Most artists are clustered in the lower left quadrant which implies their total sales was less than $1 million and volume was less than 15.

A closer look at top 20 artists, as shown in the graph below, demonstrates the spread of their sales and indicates whether their individual works (represented by a dot) exceeded the presale estimate (low estimate). Pablo Picasso had most lots selling for lower than the estimated low price.  Surprisingly, Modigliani did not make the top 20 artists list of the month, despite being the highest priced work sold in May. Instead, Monet and Picasso were the top two artists last month in terms of volume and sales.
The Top 25 Artworks Sold
Founder: Louise Blouin

Top auction results for Amedeo Modigliani