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The Big 3 Auction Houses Brought in Nearly US$18 Billion (HK$141.3 Billion) in Sales This Year
Christie's, Sotheby's and Phillips all reached impressive totals thanks to some big-name art sales.
BY Tori Latham  |  December 29, 2022
2 Minute Read

As we head into the last week of December, we get to see how certain industries fared throughout the year. One that had a pretty spectacular 2022? Auctions.

With almost US$18 billion (HK$141.3 billion) in cumulative sales, the three major auction houses—Christie’sSotheby’s and Phillips—had their best year ever, Bloomberg reported recently. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that art itself had an amazing year.

In 2022, Christie’s brought in US$8.4 billion (HK$65.94 billion)in sales, while Sotheby’s reached US$8 billion (HK$62.8 billion) and Phillips made US$1.3 billion (HK$10.2 billion). Christie’s claims that its stratospheric result is the highest annual total in art-market history.

That house’s overall total was buttressed by a whopping US$6.2 billion (HK$48.7 billion) in sales of 20th- and 21st-century art alone. Classics—including Old Masters, memorabilia, antiques and decorative arts—added another US$789 million (HK$6.2 billion), while luxury categories hit almost US$1 billion (HK$7.85 billion). Rounding out the total was US$400 million (HK$3.1 billion) in sales of Asian and world art.

At Sotheby’s, meanwhile, fine art and luxury sales made up US$6.8 billion HK$53.38 billion), a decline from last year’s US$7.3 billion (HK$57.3 billion). But the house’s overall total was buoyed by sales at RM Sotheby’s, which offers collectible cars, and Sotheby’s Concierge Auctions, which deals in real estate. While Sotheby’s doesn’t own either of those companies outright, it does include their sales in its final numbers.

Phillips, which is best known for its contemporary art sales, pushed into new categories this year, helping to elevate its total sales. Indeed, sales of modern art—including works by Marc Chagall, Roy Lichtenstein and Pablo Picasso—increased an impressive 50 percent.

While these numbers are certainly eye-popping, they rely heavily on a few major sales. As Bloomberg notes, they don’t necessarily reflect the strength or weakness of the overall art market. Phillips, for example, sold an US$85 million (HK$667.24 million) Jean-Michel Basquiat painting and a US$41.6 million (HK$326.55 million) Cy Twombly. And Christie’s sold seven of the year’s 10 most expensive artworks, including a Marilyn Monroe portrait by Andy Warhol that hammered down for US$195 million (HK$1.5 billion).

Whether the art market will sustain these kinds of sales figures is an open question. For now, the auction houses will have to be content with their new records.