Sotheby’s Has Gone Digital, And Just Set An Auction Record Of $10 Million
COVID-19 has disrupted businesses around the world, forcing warehouses to close temporarily, stores to shut their doors, while other family-owned businesses and retailers have had to pivot to online models in an effort to find some source of income during this uncertain time. While the impact of the pandemic on the economy can’t be underestimated, challenges also serve as a catalyst for change and when it comes to Sotheby’s, the auction house has adapted to an online model that is proving to be just as successful as their live auctions.
This became apparent yesterday, when the auction house set a personal best at its Contemporary Curated auction in London. The auction was held online as a result of the current health crisis, and while one might have expected it to see reduced sales and participants unwilling to part with their cash, the opposite was in fact true. The sale brought in $6.4 million USD and smashed its pre-sale high estimate of $5.75 million USD, marking the biggest record total for an online sale for Sotheby’s in its history.
The record comes just weeks after Sotheby’s set another record for an online design sale, fetching just over $4 million USD.
As for the pieces of Contemporary Curated that fetched the highest totals, that prestigious title of course went to George Condo’s 2005 painting, Antipodal Reunion which depicts three (rather grotesque) stripe-shirted cartoon figures. With eight bids landing on the piece, feverish bidders pushed the painting’s estimate well past $986,000 and landed it in the $1.3 million USD range which, according to Art Net, is the “highest price ever paid for a painting in an online sale at Sotheby’s.”
Other items in the sale included Yayoi Kusama’s 1993 canvas, which fetched $293,000; Imi Knoebel’s 1998 actylic-on-aluminium work which went for $277,000; and a Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian mirrored glass painting from 1975, going for a staggering $463,000 which also set a new record for the highest price ever paid for the Iranian artist’s work.
It’s a promising sign that even despite these times of uncertainty, the art market continues to preserve and find new ways of marketing itself to audiences around the world. With museums and galleries closed, bringing art to people via online mediums is proving to be a powerful tool and, in the case of Sotheby’s, also a lucrative one.
As Art Net suggests, online auctions grew by 63 per cent last month, fetching a combined $20.7 million more than this time last year, according to the publication’s Price Database. And while these sales don’t compare to those brought in through live sales, there is still some hope in light of the pandemic.