Russian Auctions in London 27-29 November 2017: Statistical Summary

BY SIMON HEWITT (INTERNATIONAL EDITOR)

WITH TOTAL SALES OF £38m, up 65% on last June and the highest single-week total since 2014, the Russian auction market bounced back this November.

TOTAL SALES

LOTS OFFERED LOTS SOLD % SOLD TOTAL SHARE
Sotheby’s 472 313 66% £14.24m 37.4%
Christie’s 320 244 76% £13.28m 34.9%
MacDougall’s 302 232 77% £9.85m 25.9%
Bonhams 157 57 36% £0.66m 1.7%
TOTALS 1251 846 68% £38.03m  

Despite increasing their take by over 17% from last June, Sotheby’s share of the market plummeted by 15% at the expense of Christie’s (market-share up 15%) and MacDougall’s (market-share up 6%). Sales more than doubled at both the latter firms: Christie’s from £5m to £13m, MacDougall’s from £4.5m to £9.9m. With sales of £660,000 and a market-share down from 6.2% to just 1.7%, Bonhams toyed with insignificance; their percentage of unsold lots soared from 42% to 64%. At MacDougall’s, however, unsold lots fell from 47% to 23%, enabling the firm to post the week’s lowest buy-in rate for the first time ever. The overall buy-in rate was broadly stable, dropping 1.2% to 32%.

TOP TEN TITLE PRICE ESTIMATE FIRM
Fechin Portrait of Nadezhda Sapozhnikova (c.1908) £3.65m £1.2-1.8m Sotheby’s
Deneika Heroes of the Five-Year Plan (1936) £2.85m £2-3m MacDougall’s
Goncharova Still Life with Teapot £2.41m £500-700,000 Christie’s
Fechin Portrait of Duane (1926) £913,000 £700,000-£1.2m MacDougall’s
Vasnetsov Old Veliky Novgorod (1901) £849,000 £350-450,000 Christie’s
Faberge Sedan Chair model (1899-1903) £789,000 £700,000-£1m Christie’s
Faberge Rhinoceros automaton (c.1909) £705,000 £300-400,000 Christie’s
Mescheriakov Imperial Porcelain Vase (1838) £693,000 £150-200,000 Christie’s
Polenov He Resolutely Set Out for Jerusalem £692,000 £400-600,000 MacDougall’s
Polenov Christ with Mary Magdalene £606,000 £360-500,000 MacDougall’s

 

There were ten prices of over £600,000, compared to just five last June (when not one lot made it into seven figures). Sotheby’s, who posted eight of the Top Ten prices in June, had just one this time out – albeit the week’s biggest seller, a Fechin female at a triple-estimate £3.65m. Fechin, like Polenov, figured twice in the Top Ten. There was again no major Avant-Garde offering nor, more unusually, was there a single painting from the 19th century in the Top Ten. After being absent from the last two Top Tens, Works of Art returned this November with Fabergé and an imposing Imperial Porcelain vase. Bonhams’ top price was a mid-estimate £100,000 for a 1930s portrait by Korovin.

FINE ART

LOTS OFFERED LOTS SOLD % SOLD TOTAL SHARE
Sotheby’s 239 149 62% £11.28m 43%
MacDougall’s 229 173 76% £9.43m 36%
Christie’s 69 47 68% £5.36m 20%
Bonhams 48 16 33% £0.36m 1%
TOTALS 585 385 66% £26.43m  

Fine Art (Pictures & Sculpture, excluding Contemporary Art) accounted for 69% of all sales. Sotheby’s remain the leading player, although their market-share fell by 12%; MacDougall’s market-share, on the other hand, rose by 12% as they increased their lead in the field over Christie’s from 8% to 16%. Every firm except Bonhams posted higher sales than six months ago, as overall takings climbed 48% to £26.4m. The buy-in rate was stable at 34%.

CONTEMPORARY ART

LOTS OFFERED LOTS SOLD % SOLD TOTAL SHARE
Sotheby’s 50 39 78% £1.15m 55%
MacDougall’s 50 39 78% £0.34m 16%
Christie’s 26 23 88% £0.54m 26%
Bonhams 31 14 45% £0.08m 4%
TOTALS 157 115 64% £2.11m

Although Contemporary Art accounted for 21% of all Fine Art lots, total sales were a mere £2.1m – just 7% of the market. Russian Contemporary remains dominated by Sotheby’s.

WORKS OF ART

  LOTS OFFERED LOTS SOLD % SOLD TOTAL SHARE
Christie’s 214 165 77% £7.26m 79%
Sotheby’s 176 120 68% £1.78m 19%
Bonhams 60 20 33% £0.19m 2%
MacDougall’s 16 12 75% £0.06m
TOTALS 467 317 68% £9.19m

Overall sales were up 75% at £9.2m, from 8% fewer lots. After drawing level with Christie’s last June, Sotheby’s saw their main rivals power to a 79% market-share this time out.  Bonhams and MacDougall’s were left with under 3% of the market between them.

ICONS

LOTS OFFERED LOTS SOLD % SOLD TOTAL SHARE
Christie’s 10 9 90% £106,500 61%
Sotheby’s 11 5 45% £31,000 18%
MacDougall’s 7 7 100% £21,000 12%
Bonhams 17 5 29% £17,500 10%
TOTALS 45 26 58% £176,000

London’s auction icon scene is in the doldrums, with richer pickings to be had over in Copenhagen at Bruun Rasmussen.

CONCLUSION

London’s Russian Auction market appears to have turned a corner following three lean years. Sotheby’s remain the dominant force on the Picture market, while Christie’s reasserted their pre-eminence in Works of Art – and narrowed the gap in overall market-share with their principal rivals to just 2.5%. But MacDougall’s, perhaps, had the most grounds for satisfaction – snaffling one-quarter of the market, posting their lowest-ever buy-in rate, and consolidating their status as number two for Fine Art. After a tentative revival over the last year, Bonhams had a sale they will want to forget, fast.

All eyes now turn to June 2018. Will potential consignors be encouraged to sell by these strong November results, or will they prefer to wait and assess the impact of next Spring’s Russian presidential election?

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A FULL REPORT ON RUSSIAN ART WEEK BY SIMON HEWITT WILL BE ON-LINE NEXT WEEK