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ART MARKET WATCH
Aug. 7, 2008 

CHRISTIE’S EDGES SOTHEBY’S
Sotheby’s has released its sales numbers for the first half of 2008, results that are "the second best in our history," according Sotheby’s CEO Bill Ruprecht, especially considering "today’s global economic environment." The total consolidated sales -- including private sales as well as auctions -- was $3.44 billion, an increase of 14 percent and a record high for the house. Sotheby’s total includes the recent London contemporary sales totaling $242.4 million, which typically occur in June but this year were pushed into July.

The Sotheby’s numbers come in just below those of Christie’s International, which were announced last month. Christie’s, which is privately owned by French luxury-goods billionaire François Pinault, totaled £1.8 billion, or $3.5 billion. Christie’s total represented an increase of 10 percent over the same period in 2007.

Sotheby’s also noted that its auction commission revues for the second quarter of 2008 was 15.1 percent, an increase over the 13.6 percent margin in the first quarter of the year, though below the 16 percent obtained in the second quarter of 2007.

Still, Sotheby’s has bragging rights for selling the most expensive contemporary artwork for the period, Francis Bacon’s Triptych (1976), which sold for a record $86.3 million. Sales of contemporary art at Sotheby’s during the period totaled $1,021.7 million, edging out Impressionist and modern art sales, which totaled $816.2 million. Highs in both categories were the best ever, according to the firm.

Ruprecht drew attention to the upcoming sale in London on Sept. 15-16, 2008, "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever," offering some 200 new works by Damien Hirst, estimated in excess of $130 million. "We expect a stronger third quarter than last year," Ruprecht added.


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