Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Antiquities at auction in New York

The antiquities market in New York seems to be in serious decline. The overall sale of antiquities at Sotheby's and Christie's was down by over $8.5 million. Some $20 million worth of antiquities were auctioned in 2009; this is comparable with the levels in 2003 ($20.4 million) and 2006 ($19.9 million). Sotheby's has seen a sharp decline; 2009 was one of the lowest levels in the decade (the lowest was 2006 with $6 million). In contrast Christie's has seen a steep increase in the amounts achieved. However Christie's has also featured in a number of seizures (see earlier comment).

For the record some $300 million worth of antiquities have been sold at the two auction-houses in New York since 1998.

Is this decline the result of a shortage of antiquities with recorded histories, more rigorous due diligence processes, or the global recession?

© David Gill, 2010

| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know


John Muccigrosso said...


These sales seem to rise and fall fairly dramatically year by year. I'm not sure I'd say that a decline is evident.

Relatedly, why was 2007 so big? Was it a lot of little sales, or one big one?

Mark said...

Are Sotheby's and Christie's selling more or fewer antiquities now than in past years? Possibly, the negative press surrounding the sales of questionable works (and the negative effects it had on other aspects of their businesses) have led them to decrease their role in the selling of antiquities.

David Gill said...

Yes, 2007 was an unusual year. See the reason here.

David Gill said...

One way of answering your question would be to consider median values. See my observations here.

Ann Wuyts said...

Hi David,

There seems to have been a general decline. You want to check the economist edition of a few weeks back (the one that horrible insulted my lovely Belgium) that had an indepth article about the sales of art.

It seems the print version was more extended, but the start is here:


John Muccigrosso said...

David, thanks for the further info. Are your plots correcting for inflation (which hasn't been high lately, but over 10 years would be significant)?

Also, can you post the data?

Happy New Year!

David Gill said...

These plots are straight amounts with no corrections for inflation. The data will appear in a research publication.
Best wishes

A Fragmentary Athena Attributed to Myron

It has been reported that a fragmentary Roman limestone copy of a 5th century BCE sculpture of Athena attributed to Myron is now the subject...