Swansea archaeologist David Gill has been analyzing the sale of antiquities in New York since 1999. Some $300 million worth of antiquities have been sold at Sotheby's and Christie's since 1998. There are normally two sales a year for each of the auction houses.
Around $20 million of antiquities were sold in 2009, down by over $8.5 million from the previous year. This is similar to the levels in 2003 ($20.4 million) and 2006 ($19.9 million). Only 2002 was significantly lower.
Sotheby's seems to have been achieving lower sums. 2009 saw one of the lowest amounts achieved in the decade at just under $8.6 million. The worst year was in 2006 with $6 million. However, in December 2006 ,the auction house sold a single antiquity, the Guennol Lioness, said to have been found near Baghdad and displayed in the Brooklyn Museum since 1948, for $57.161 million.
Christie's, in contrast, has been increasing its market share.
However, during 2009, a number of antiquities were seized from auction houses in New York at the request of Italian authorities. Some appear to have been identified from images seized during police raids on a dealer's warehouse in Geneva.
One trend over the decade has been the decrease in the element of Egyptian antiquities. At Sotheby's, Egyptian objects only represent some 17% of the value of the sales. A study of the median value of the lots in the sales suggests that prices are around their 2004 level.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Antiquities: Downturn in antiquity sales