Do I hear a billion? Sotheby's sales surge as art market bucks downturn

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

It might seem like everything is crashing down around us in Austerity Britain, but judging by the bumper-billion-pound sales figures disclosed by one London auction house, it appears now is the perfect time to cash in on those artistic masterpieces you've left gathering dust in your attic.

Sotheby's in London's upmarket New Bond Street sold nearly £1bn of fine art in its sales during 2011, according to results filed at Companies House. And with global sales of fine art estimated to have hit £35.8bn last year, it appears Britain is taking a significant chunk.

The biggest sale of the year was Francesco Guardi's Venice, a View of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North, from the Fondamenta del Carbon, which yielded £26.7m. It was later subjected to an export ban by the Culture minister, Ed Vaizey, in order to give potential British buyers the chance to raise enough cash to keep it in the country. Nevertheless, it helped to boost total sales at the London auction house to £931m, up more than £50m on 2010.

One private collection broke several records when it fetched £93.5m last February, including the £23m sale of Francis Bacon's triptych of studies of fellow painter Lucian Freud, and Salvador Dali's £13.5m portrait of French poet Paul Eluard.

Among the other highlights of the year were Austrian artist Egon Schiele's rare cityscape Häuser mit bunter Wäsche, Vorstadt II (Houses with Colourful Laundry, Suburb II), which took £24.7m, and Pablo Picasso's £25.2m La Lecture.

The London auction house's sales were particularly striking given that it faces competition not only from local rivals such as Christie's, but also scores of sister houses overseas. Indeed, two of the group's forthcoming headline lots are to be sold in New York: Edvard Munch's masterpiece The Scream, which could fetch up to $80m (£50.5m), while bids of up to $50m are expected for an Elvis Presley portrait by Andy Warhol.

A Warhol screen print portrait of Brigitte Bardot will be included in a London sale of 300 works formerly owned by the German playboy Gunter Sachs, which is expected to harvest at least another £20m from the buoyant market in May.

Although Sotheby's is the oldest company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, it was founded in London by bookseller Samuel Baker, who held his first auction – the sale of a library – in 1744. The group now operates 90 auction houses in 40 countries, from the US to South Korea, and the increase in auction sales in London was also seen worldwide – up 14.5 per cent to $4.9bn.

"We have now reached the point where the three geographic engines driving our auction business – the Americas, Europe and Asia – are contributing to our success in roughly equal proportions," said president and chief executive Bill Ruprecht.

The success of fine-art sales figures could not prevent a slight fall in revenue and pre-tax profit at the 368-year-old auction house, which were £152.6m and £50.6m respectively.

However, Sotheby's managing director for Europe, Patrick van Maris van Dijk, insisted in his report that the "directors are encouraged by the level of auction sales to date in 2012 and remain encouraged by the strength of the global art market".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition