Contemporary Art Auctions Down 75 Percent in 2009

Contemporary Art Auctions Down 75 Percent in 2009
After almost a decade of rapid growth in the contemporary art auction market, end-of-year tallies reveal that Christie’s and Sotheby’s suffered massive declines in total sales over the course of 2009, moving $482.3 million worth of goods (including fees), down from $1.97 billion in 2008.

Market observers point to the disappearance of auction house guarantees as one of the reasons for the decline. Sotheby’s and Christie’s suffered massive losses last year as they were forced to pay out large sums to sellers when lots failed to sell. They responded by eliminating the practice, which prompted many sellers turn to more discrete, private channels of selling work.

Compared to the contemporary art market in 2003, though, the market’s performance is still respectable. Art consulting group Artprice notes that contemporary art sales grew eightfold from 2003 to 2007. And there are signs that the market’s vigor may be returning. Sotheby’s November evening auction grabbed an impressive $134.4 million total, buoyed by the $43.8 million sale of Andy Warhols 200 One Dollar Bills (1962), the most expensive work of contemporary art sold this year — at least in public.

Read more at Bloomberg.