Published: August 12, 2003
Sotheby’s Holdings, Inc, the parent company of Sotheby’s worldwide live auction business, art-related financial services and real estate brokerage activities, reported on August 7 that for the second quarter ended June 30, the aggregate hammer price of property sold at auction by the company, which includes buyer’s premium, decreased $103.9 million, or 15 percent, compared to the same period in 2002.
The company said, however, that auction revenues over the same period decreased only a fraction of that amount by $4.9 million, or four percent, primarily as a result of the buyer’s premium rate increase that became effective in January 2003, as well as improved consignor commission rates.
The company reported total revenues of $119 million for the second quarter of 2003, compared to total revenues of $127 million for the same period of 2002.
“We had a profitable second quarter with expenses very well controlled, and we are satisfied with the outcome of the second quarter and first half, given the difficult circumstances that prevailed during the period,” said William F. Ruprecht, president and chief executive officer. “The buildup to the war in Iraq occurred at the prime property gathering period for our major spring sales in New York and directly affected New York consignments.
“While we saw a sizable decline in auction sales in the second quarter of 2003, auction and related revenues over the same period decreased only a fraction of that, which demonstrates our ability to effectively withstand an unpredictable environment.
“Our spring Impressionist and Modern art sales in New York and London performed well and Sotheby’s led in this important auction category with a combined total of $155.1 million. The resilience of the art market was also evident in a number of other sales, most notably in our American paintings sale in New York, which brought $31.9 million, close to the high estimate, and our July Old Masters sales in London, which brought $38.7 million, well exceeding the high estimate. The demand for works of art that are fresh to the market and of high quality was as strong as ever, despite the challenges of the current global economic and political environment,” said Ruprecht.
The company reviewed highlights from the spring and summer season.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Dans les Roses (Portrait de Madame Léon Clapisson)” sold for $23.5 million in New York and was the highest individual price achieved among all the Impressionist and Modern works sold in the New York and London spring sales. The highlight of the June London Impressionist sale was Egon Schiele’s landscape painting, “Krumauer Landschaft (Stadt und Fluss),” which brought $21.1 million, more than doubling its presale low estimate. This price set a world auction record for the artist and became the highest priced restituted work of art ever auctioned.
At Sotheby’s sale of American paintings, drawings and sculpture in New York, which totaled $31.9 million, the collection of Meyer and Vivian Potamkin brought in $15.3 million, more than $2 million above its high estimate. The highest price achieved at the sale was $3 million for John Sloan’s “Easter Eve,” a painting depicting a nighttime New York scene, setting a record for the artist at auction.
The July Old Masters sales in London achieved $38.7 million, surpassing its high estimate of $31.5 million by $7.2 million, or 23 percent. The most notable lot of the sale was Rembrandt’s rediscovered “Self-Portrait with Shaded Eyes,” which sold for $11.3 million, setting an auction record for a Rembrandt self-portrait.
The working manuscript of Ludwig von Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony brought $3.5 million on May 22, setting the auction record for a single musical work as well as for a Beethoven manuscript.
Karl Lagerfeld’s collection of Art Deco and Works of Art, which was sold in Paris on May 15, achieved $8 million in sales, almost tripling its low estimate of $3 million.
Sotheby’s Asia experienced an excellent spring season, according to the company, despite the on-going, widespread concern surrounding the SARS viral epidemic that limited travel by many of its international clients. Sales results in Asia totaled $48 million for the second quarter of 2003, as compared to $47.7 million in second quarter 2002, with particular strength in the Chinese ceramics market in Hong Kong and the paintings market in Australia.
In looking to the second half of the year, Ruprecht noted, “We are encouraged by the level of consignments, which appears to be due in part to the offering in the fall of property withheld from the spring auctions as a result of economic uncertainties related to the buildup to the war in Iraq. We are also seeing an improvement in the real estate market, with properties under contract at the end of the second quarter of 2003 at a 13-month high for this segment of our business.”
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