hauser & wirth

What Is the World’s Top Mega-Gallery? We Crunched the Numbers—and No, It’s Not the One You Think

The Art Detective is a weekly column by Katya Kazakina for Midnight Publishing Group News Pro that lifts the curtain on what’s really going on in the art market.

A Patti Smith performance. A boutique hotel in a Scottish village. A Miami warehouse featuring jaw-dropping immersive installations with an admission price steeper than most U.S. museums. Book and magazine publishing. Restaurants and bars. C-suites and financial departments. 

These are just some things Gagosian, Zwirner, Pace, and Hauser & Wirth galleries do as they compete for art-world domination. Combined, the Big Four represent almost 400 artists and occupy more than 330,000 square feet (that’s almost six football fields), according to an analysis by the Art Detective. 

No longer mom-and-pop operations, art galleries are evolving into global brands, with new initiatives and branches announced weekly, it seems. As the world emerges from the pandemic, these conglomerates are forging full steam ahead to make up for a year of lost revenue—and grab market share.

Global gallery sales fell 20 percent to $29.3 billion in 2020, with the largest ones (turnover of $10 million or more) reporting the steepest decline, of 31 percent, according to the latest UBS Art Basel art market report.

But who occupies the top spot after a year of reckoning?

Larry Gagosian and Leo Castelli in 1996 in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Larry Gagosian and Leo Castelli in 1996 in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Conversations with experts and a close examination of the galleries’ growth reveal that while Gagosian, considered by many to be the industry leader, may be slowing down, there is no clear successor to take its place—yet.

“At this moment, the concept of the top gallery is almost obsolete,” said Barbara Bertozzi Castelli, art historian and widow of Leo Castelli, the top dealer of the previous era.  

Instead of a pyramid, the top of the market may become a field dominated by several powerful players, said art adviser Megan Fox Kelly. “And the metrics for measuring the top become not only about sales volume and gallery space but more about influence—who is making the greatest impact? Who is innovating effectively? Where do prominent artists most want to be?  And who is building the most effective team to support their artists and collectors?”


Larry Gagosian, 76, has been the undisputed leader of the past two decades, with sales topping $1 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal, and a gallery empire upon which the sun never sets. His mega-gallery model has become the template—to emulate and disrupt—for the younger generation of rivals: David Zwirner, Marc Glimcher, and Iwan and Manuela Wirth, who are all in their 50s and hungry. 

“Gagosian has been the top gallery for so long, and now it’s a little unclear,” said Natasha Degen, chair of art market studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “It seems optically, that these other galleries looking to grow are vying for the top spot more aggressively.”

Table by Midnight Publishing Group News.

In 2014, the gap between Gagosian and the rest was vast. The gallery had 15 outposts and represented 128 artists, according to Selling Contemporary Art: How to Navigate the Evolving Market, a book by art dealer Edward Winkleman. Its closest competitor, Pace Gallery, had 8 galleries and 84 artists.

But the gap has been closing. While Gagosian still has the most exhibition space, branches, and staff, its growth has slowed down, and even reversed. The gallery currently lists 90 artists on its website, down 29 percent from seven years ago.   

Meanwhile, Gagosian’s three rivals have been in full-on expansion mode, adding artists and opening new galleries. (All four galleries declined to comment on sales and revenues.) 

Today, Pace and Hauser & Wirth both represent more artists than Gagosian, a key metric of a gallery’s success and influence. Pace leads the pack with 137 artists and estates. It recently signed Jeff Koons, the world’s most expensive living artist at auction, who had been working with Gagosian and Zwirner. 

Those who sought out representation over the past two years and didn’t end up with Gagosian include Barbara Kruger and the estate of Robert Ryman, which went to Zwirner. George Condo and Cindy Sherman chose Hauser & Wirth. 

The latter has gobbled up the most artists in the past two years—23, to be precise—including hot young painters like Avery Singer and Christina Quarles. The art world is aflutter with speculation about its heady signing bonuses ($1 million for Singer! $50 million for Condo! $100 million for Sherman!). The gallery didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

Table by Midnight Publishing Group News.

To be sure, Gagosian remains a force to be reckoned with. “He’s still probably No. 1 until there’s evidence that he isn’t,” said Don Thompson, an economist and author of two popular books about the art market.

The gallery has taken steps to address succession concerns by naming art dealer Andrew Fabricant as its chief operating officer in 2019, a role that makes him second-in-command at the gallery. But for Thompson, the question still remains: “What happens when [Gagosian] ceases his role?”


A similar generational shift was at play in the late 1980s when the influence of Castelli, the top dealer of the previous 25 years, was waning. Many of his artists departed and ascendant galleries such as Pace, Gagosian, and Mary Boone were vying for primacy.

Since opening his gallery in 1957, Castelli focused on discovering and nurturing American artists—Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg—and bringing them to an international audience.

“The gallery was there at the specific time when the center of the art scene moved from Paris to New York City,” said Bertozzi Castelli. “And all the artists were shown at Leo’s gallery.”

People often forget that Castelli was an artist-centered, primary market gallery, she noted. The dealer hated resales and was willing to forgo profit while partnering with other galleries to promote his artists. “He used to say that in the secondary market, any type of unethical thing could happen, and he was happy he didn’t need to do it,” Bertozzi Castelli said. 

Larry Gagosian in 1988. (Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Gagosian, who learned from Castelli, realized that there was another way. His innovation was to open his own galleries around the world and divide his focus between primary and secondary market deals. This way, he didn’t have to share the profit and benefited completely from the upside.

The model took hold in an increasingly globalized art world, but its sustainability has been the subject of fierce debate. As the pandemic struck, even Gagosian started to question the approach. He closed his San Francisco space last year (but also added programming at the former Marciano Foundation in Los Angeles).

“When things go down like this you say, ‘Jesus, Larry, do you really need all these galleries?”’ Gagosian said last year.


It remains unclear what the next model will be. 

One place to look for answers is the luxury sector, where a handful of companies, including Francois Pinault’s Kering and Bernard Arnault’s LVMH, have outsize influence, power, and brand recognition.

“The top three-four conglomerates take up a larger share of the market every year,” Thompson said. A similar trend is happening in the art world, where the top four galleries (as well as Sotheby’s and Christie’s) are increasing their total sales annually, he added.

Hauser & Wirth presidents Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Marc Payot. Photo courtesy of Hauser & Wirth.

Hauser & Wirth presidents Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Marc Payot. Photo courtesy of Hauser & Wirth.

Companies like Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton have transformed from their original niches (in leather goods and luggage) to global brands that are larger than any of the product lines they offer. 

“In the art world, there’s recognition that more can be done on the brand building side,” Degen said.  


Indeed, each gallery seems to be working to carve out its own brand identity to attract new audiences and expand the global collector base. Gagosian—who, it has been said, was the first to perfect the art of selling art to billionaires—established itself as elite, maximalist, and unabashedly luxe. For the latest installment of its livestreamed “Premieres” series, it got Patti Smith to perform in front of Gerhard Richter’s paintings.

“People know Gagosian like they know Art Basel,” Degen said. “They may not have been to the gallery, but they know the brand.”

President Bill Clinton, Ben Stiller and David Zwirner attend the Artists for Haiti dinner. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

Zwirner, which has poured abundant resources into its publishing arm and robust online infrastructure, distinguished itself as perhaps the most high-minded of the bunch, while Hauser & Wirth has deep pockets, no single aesthetic, and a European sensibility. With destination locations like its art-filled hotel, The Fife Arms, in Scotland, it is the closest the gallery scene has to a lifestyle brand. Finally, the populist-leaning Pace is the most open to experimentation, having been early to court the tech community and invest in crowd-pleasing immersive art projects.

The stakes are higher for these dealers than for predecessors like Castelli because the business is global and the internet has expanded the audience for art dramatically. Exhibitions by teamLab draw millions of visitors, while artists like KAWS and Jean-Michel Basquiat are global brands themselves, more recognized than the galleries who represent them.  

teamLab’s Infinite Crystal Universe, 2015-2018. Image courtesy of Pace Gallery.

“That’s going to be the next big question in terms of the next model,” Degen said. “How do you monetize the growing interest among the wider public? And who will be the one to figure out how to do that in a way that doesn’t degrade the brand or alienate artists?”

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

Why Is the Art World Raving About Monaco? Simon de Pury Makes the Case for Why His Home Turf Is a Must-Know Industry Destination

Every month in The Hammer, art-industry veteran Simon de Pury lifts the curtain on his life as the ultimate art-world insider, his brushes with celebrity, and his invaluable insight into the inner workings of the art market.


Monaco is becoming a key destination for art lovers.

This summer a big Giacometti retrospective will continue the strong exhibition program of the Forum Grimaldi. Under the patronage of Princess Caroline of Hanover, who is a formidable champion for culture in the principality, interesting exhibitions regularly take place at the Villa Sauber and Villa Paloma, which are part of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco.

In recent years Monaco has also started to play a more important role in the art market. Thomas Hug founded art Monte-Carlo in 2016, and after the obligatory 2020 hiatus, will stage its fifth edition from July 14 to 17. A lot of excitement is being caused by the imminent arrival of Hauser & Wirth, which will open a spectacular new space with an inaugural exhibition devoted to Louise Bourgeois in June. Rumor has it that Almine Rech, who with her husband Bernard Picasso is a Monaco resident, may soon also open a gallery. It seems top gallerists are finally realizing that Monaco is possibly one of the best locations to focus on in the hopefully soon-to-begin post-Covid world. 

Photo by Simon de Pury.

Photo by Simon de Pury.

After all, Gagosian, David Zwirner, and Hauser & Wirth are jostling to find appropriate spaces in Gstaad during the winter. St. Moritz has been a coveted place for leading dealers for a long time with Bruno Bischofberger as undisputed king working from his home, and Karsten Greve, Hauser & Wirth, Andrea Caratsch, Vito Schnabel, and Robilant+Voena all well placed to catch the attention of high net worth individuals who flock to the Swiss mountain resorts for the ski season.

But whereas in St. Moritz the activity is seasonal, with the peak usually concentrated during two weeks in the second half of February, Monaco offers a captive audience all year long and optimal conditions. It takes far less time to drive to Nice airport from Monte-Carlo than it takes to go from Mayfair to Heathrow. The climate is mild and pleasant, the hotels are first rate, and there is a plethora of top restaurants. 

For the art market to fully flourish, it needs the presence of leading galleries and a good fair, but also a strong auction presence. Here, things are also looking up. Sotheby’s will stage the auction of the Karl Lagerfeld Collection during the second half of 2021 in Monaco. This brings me back to the future. 

Sotheby's Chairman and chief auctioneer Peter Wilson (1913-1984) conducts a sale of Renaissance paintings at Sotheby's auction house in London on 28th November 1963. Photo by Les Lee/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Sotheby’s Chairman and chief auctioneer Peter Wilson (1913-1984) conducts a sale of Renaissance paintings at Sotheby’s auction house in London on 28th November 1963. Photo by Les Lee/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Forty-five years ago Monaco was already the favorite auction and art market venue of the leading collectors of the time. A law that dated from the time of Napoleon gave French auctioneers a monopoly in France, and prevented Anglo-Saxon companies such as Sotheby’s or Christie’s from conducting auctions in Paris. Peter Wilson, then the brilliant chairman of Sotheby’s, knowing that Monaco had a customs union with France, decided to start auctions in the principality. This allowed him not only to circumvent the French monopoly and compete for the best French estates but also to be able to sell works that were prohibited from leaving the French territory as they were regarded as national treasures.

Sotheby’s inaugural Monaco sale consisted of the collections of Baron Guy de Rothschild and Baron Alexis de Redé. Prince Rainier and Princess Grace took an old Art Deco train together with Peter Wilson from Nice to Monaco as part of the official opening festivities. The auction was a triumph. After that, one major collection after another was swooped away from under the nose of the main French auctioneers to be sold in Monaco’s most elegant rooms.

At the time, I was a little greenhorn who had just landed a job at Sotheby’s in London. Presumably because I spoke French, I was asked to move to Monaco to help with the burgeoning auction operation. Auctions were high glamor, black tie only events starting at 10 p.m. Collectors were sipping champagne while bidding. There were no sky boxes, and top collectors were present in the sale room. I remember seeing Gianni Agnelli, Stavros Niarchos, Baron H.H. Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Sir Charles Clore, all sitting in the room bidding against each other in a way you only see happening today at top end charity galas.

In 1978, the catalogue for the collection of French 18th century furniture of Daniel Wildenstein had been printed when a few days before the auction Akram Ojjeh bought the whole collection en bloc. One year later he consigned it to Sotheby’s Monaco which only had to change the preface and the title page of the catalogue. Collections of the Comtesse de Béhague, Serge Lifar, Alain Lesieutre, Marcel Janson, Karl Lagerfeld, and many more were sold during auction weekends that would take place three to four times a year.

Karl Lagerfeld and Simon de Pury. Courtesy Simon de Pury.

Karl Lagerfeld and Simon de Pury. Courtesy Simon de Pury.

In the late 1990s, under pressure from the E.U., the French government had to abandon the four-centuries-old monopoly afforded to French auctioneers. Sotheby’s and Christie’s (which meanwhile had followed its main competitor to Monaco) instantly moved the majority of their sales to Paris. This began a calmer period for Monaco as a marketplace. The great irony is that while Christie’s and Sotheby’s instantly became the undisputed auction leaders in Paris, thereby confirming the worst fears of French commissaires priseurs (auctioneers), today the two Anglo-Saxon companies are firmly in the French hands of François Pinault and Patrick Drahi.

Another essential ingredient for a strong art market ecosystem in Monaco is a local collector base. It is in and from Monaco that the three brothers Joe, Ezra, and David Nahmad laid the groundwork for their incredible collection and their art dynasty. There is a good density of major collectors in residence. I used to fantasize in Manhattan that it would be sufficient to have all the inhabitants of some individual buildings on Fifth or Park Avenue as clients in order to be hugely successful. There are some apartment buildings in Monte-Carlo whose inhabitants alone could keep an art business going for decades.

You wouldn’t necessarily regard Monaco as a place with a large community of artists. If you take the Côte d’Azur as a whole, however, it is a region which has at all times attracted top artists. Picasso, Matisse, Bonnard, Chagall, César, Arman, and many more have and continue to be attracted by the beauty and light of the region. Francis Bacon spent a lot of time in Monaco as you realize when you visit the extraordinary Francis Bacon Foundation that Majid Boustany has set up here. Helmut and June Newton also did some of their best work during the many years they lived here.

Prince Albert II of Monaco, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Simon de Pury attend the Gala for the Global Ocean. Courtesy Simon de Pury.

Prince Albert II of Monaco, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Simon de Pury attend the Gala for the Global Ocean. Courtesy Simon de Pury.

Today, I am happy to be back living in Monaco, which incidentally is the place where my father was born. I look forward to September 23, when I will be conducting the fifth annual gala auction for the Global Ocean that is being organized by the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco. In the four previous editions of the gala I had the privilege of selling great works of art for this great cause. Last year the grandson of Joan Miró and the daughter of Roberto Matta donated strong works. Prince Albert II is globally one of the heads of state who does most for the environment. It is our responsibility in the art world to do what we can to help.

As this exciting momentum for the market continues to gather, I am excited to witness Monaco become an important art hub for the second time in my professional life.

Simon de Pury is the former chairman and chief auctioneer of Phillips de Pury & Company and is a private dealer, art advisor, photographer, and DJ. Instagram: @simondepury

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

The Back Room: A Macro View of the Spring Auctions


2. For Blue-Chip Standbys, the Auction (Mostly) Happens Before the Auction

The presale period is when the houses field third-party offers to assume the risk (and upside) of the guarantees they’ve made to consignors. Once those back-room competitions play out, there’s seldom much demand left for the salesroom anymore.

At Christie’s, solid (if not spectacular) works by Gerhard RichterChristopher Wool, and Richard Prince sold to their guarantors with no outside resistance—often well beneath their low estimates. (Katya Kazakina’s latest column dug into these works and others consigned to Christie’s by private equity titan Thompson Dean.) In total, 16 of the 39 works in the sale were guaranteed, and most were backed by third parties.

In Sotheby’s contemporary segment, a classic Cy Twombly “blackboard” painting barely crept within presale estimate range by hammering at $36 million on one bid to its backer. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Versus Medici hammered below its $50 million presale expectation. (Fees pushed it to $50.7 million.) Incidentally, nine of the 32 lots to reach the rostrum in this portion of the evening were guaranteed, with seven of the nine backed by third parties. (Two works were withdrawn presale, further reducing the drama.)

Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern sale, largely defined by uneven bidding and few fireworks, counted 14 guarantees—11 of which had third-party backing.

The point: Many works seen as reliable stores of value (but not much more) are likely to be more in demand behind the scenes than in front of them anymore. This week’s sales did little to dispel that notion.

Artist Robert Longo Is Joining Pace Gallery After Four Decades at the Soon-to-Shutter Metro Pictures

Two months after his gallery of four decades, Metro Pictures, announced its closure, artist Robert Longo has found a new home. 

Today, Pace Gallery announced that the influential Pictures Generation artist has joined its star-studded roster. The new partnership will be christened with a solo show of Longo’s recent work this September at Pace’s flagship space on 25th Street in New York.

“The decision of where to go after showing with Metro Pictures for 40 years was a difficult one,” Longo said in a statement. “After my initial meeting with Arne and Marc [Glimcher, Pace’s founder and CEO, respectively], I immediately felt comfortable. Marc’s enthusiasm and insight into my work is inspiring.”

Marc Glimcher, in his own statement, copped to being a “Longo superfan” since 1985. The artist’s “ability to capture our generation’s worldview on paper, the way our bands captured it on vinyl, was and is unique,” he said. “Robert speaks in the language of memory, marked down in velvet in sheets of charcoal and iconographically reconstituted in brilliant black and white.” 

Longo’s work has “never been more relevant and more pressing than it is today,” Glimcher added. 

A view of Longo's studio, with <i>Untitled (Raft at Sea)</i> (2017) on view. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.

A view of Longo’s studio, with Untitled (Raft at Sea) (2017) on view. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.

Longo will continue to show with Thaddaeus Ropac, his longtime European gallery. A spokesperson from Pace said that, outside of Europe, the two galleries will “work collaboratively” to represent the artist. Already Pace and Ropac share representation of several other artists, including Adrian Ghenie, Irving Penn, and Raqib Shaw. 

In a move that surprised many, Metro Pictures co-founders Helene Winer and Janelle Reiring declared in March that they would shutter their influential gallery by the end of this year. “We have decided to announce this difficult decision far in advance of our closing in order to give the artists we represent and our staff time to pursue other options and to allow us to participate in their transitions,” the dealers said at the time.

Since then, there has been much speculation as to where the gallery’s high-profile artists—many of whom, like Longo, have shown with the gallery for decades—would relocate. Cindy Sherman joined Hauser and Wirth, as did Gary Simmons. Meanwhile, other notable names, such as Louise Lawler and John Miller, have yet to announce new representation. 

Joining Longo at Pace is Karine Haimo, a sales director at Metro Pictures who has worked closely with the artist for a number of years. Haimo will take on a senior director role in London, according to ARTnews.

Longo’s September exhibition will comprise pieces from his newest body of work, a series of large-scale charcoal drawings titled “A History of the Present.”

“What I’m doing now is the strongest work I’ve done in my life and I bring its relevance to Pace,” Longo said. “I feel a moral imperative to be an artist, especially at this time, and I am confident that Pace Gallery will support the scope of my practice. With Pace it feels like it’s going to be a whole new ballgame that I’ve been training for my entire life.” 

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

The Back Room: The Inaugural Edition(!)


The Bottom Line

The opening of Frieze New York 2021 came off as close to a best-case version of the “new normal” as could have been hoped. Yes, health checks and masks were a drag. But much of the industry showed up, timed entry made the experience uncharacteristically pleasant, and sales were brisk. The virus situation makes European fairs a question mark, but Frieze’s success bodes well for the Armory Show and Independent’s return in September.




The Art Detective

Breakups and Sell-Offs

Happy Divorce! (Photo by Keith Beaty/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Happy Divorce! (Photo by Keith Beaty/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

pandemic-driven divorce boom is shaking up the world of elite wealth—and it should keep the art market jumping well into 2023.

That’s the message in Katya Kazakina’s inaugural edition of The Art Detective, her weekly column sleuthing through the market’s best-kept secrets. (Another Midnight Publishing Group News Pro perk, folks.)

Some of the names parting ways and splitting collections are familiar: Bill and Melinda French Gates, Linda and Harry Macklowe, and even Sotheby’s private sales guru David Schrader, who just finished divvying up a 20-year collection with his ex-partner.

Appraisers are the first to benefit from the acrimony. Divorce-related valuations of fine art and collectibles are up 25 percent compared to just before lockdown, according to Winston Art Group’s Elizabeth Von Habsburg. The reason? You can’t finalize a divorce settlement without agreed-upon asset valuations.

Splitting amicably saves collecting couples money, too, and not just because they avoid paying trial lawyers. Quietly sorting out who gets what means soon-to-be-exes also avoid hefty capital-gains taxes that would come from selling to outsiders.

But if a divorcing couple can’t come to terms privately, they’ll be forced to liquidate at auction, meaning auction-house fees and sales taxes, too. The dueling can even extend to the salesroom. Lawyers agree spouses often wage bidding wars against one another, sometimes strictly to inflict pain—exemplified by one husband threatening to win a piece just so he could burn it on video.

Expect 12 to 36 months of art-market action from all this, according to Schrader. Between appraisals, settlement negotiations (or trials), and a pandemic-induced bottleneck in divorce court—to say nothing of the private sales and auctions—the trade is in for a different kind of COVID-related long haul.




Stock in Trade

Can Masterworks Master Scale?

A promotional image for Masterworks's offering of shares in Andy Warhol's 1 Colored Marilyn (Reversal Series) (1979). Courtesy of Masterworks.

A promotional image for Masterworks’s offering of shares in Andy Warhol’s 1 Colored Marilyn (Reversal Series) (1979). Courtesy of Masterworks.

Masterworks, the investment platform securitizing fractional shares in blue-chip paintings, is on a mission to become “the largest buyer in the market” according to founder Scott Lynn. After acquiring more than $100 million in paintings in 2020 alone, and attracting more than 140,000 users to date, the company’s Silicon Valley-style growth strategy is premised on the notion its shareholders can consistently beat the niche art trade through its Wall Street models, proprietary market analytics, and economies of scale.

But art-industry veterans questioned three elements of the Masterworks sales pitch:


●  Fee Structure

Is it too much to charge a 10 percent fee inside the initial offering price, a 1.5 percent management fee yearly, and a 20 percent fee on the resale profit when a painting is finally dealt?

●  In-House Data Accuracy

Has contemporary art at auction really posted bigger gains and softer losses than the S&P 500, global equities, and other assets since 1995? And is an index tracking repeat sales of U.S. homes really the best model for tracking changes in individual artists’ historical results under the hammer?

With plans to spend $300+ million on art by EOY—“typically” resulting in its acquiring new work every week—can Masterworks consistently buy low and sell high on top-quality paintings for the long run? Or will this torrid pace prove incompatible with the narrow supply and irregular market conditions of blue-chip art?

“Auction houses were knocking themselves out to get good pictures. I didn’t have any clients coming to me desperate to sell. If you spent $100 million in 2020, were you getting the best opportunities?”

– Megan Fox Kelly, president of the Association of Professional Art Advisors, on Masterworks’s shutdown-era buying spree.

The Bottom Line

Masterworks acts as a Rorschach test, even for finance-savvy collectors: Do you see great paintings as an asset whose value can be standardized, quantified, and diversified invisibly into a portfolio… or a highly specific, irregular good whose value must be experienced, not just traded? If the former, read the fine print. If the latter, ignore the whole enterprise.




Data Dip

March 2021 Fine-Art Auction Sales Up 22 Percent Vs. March 2019

All data © Midnight Publishing Group Analytics 2021.

You read those dates right: global fine-art sales at auction this March ($1.1 billion) were more than one-fifth higher than in March 2019 ($940 million)—a full year before shutdown—according to the Midnight Publishing Group Price Database.

The biggest difference? Fifteen lots sold for $10 million or more this March, against only seven in March 2019.

Even on its own, the resurgence in trophy sales would have boded well for supply and demand at the house’s this spring. Add in the bonanza of choice pieces pushed onto the block by marital strife, and signals suggest May will be an epic bounce-back month for the auction market.

Smash the button below for more detailed analysis from Julia Halperin.





“Shortly after I arrived at [MOCA Los Angeles], Eli asked us to print out all of the museum’s financial records from the past several years. I delivered to Eli a two foot stack of accounting records. This would be his weekend reading. Eli was unique in combining this financial acumen with an enthusiasm for the latest artistic innovations.”

– Jeffrey Deitch remembering Eli Broad, whose death at age 87 was announced last weekend.



Express Checkout

Adam Chinn’s Incognito Sales Platform + Three More Market Morsels

Ex-Sotheby’s dealmaker Adam Chinn will launch LiveArt Market, a peer-to-peer online sales platform powered by machine learning and extreme discretion, this month. (Wall Street Journal)

Aimed at cutting out the middleman for high-end sales, features will include…

● Free automated estimates via algorithms that crawl auction data

● Control over what data remains anonymous (including a work’s current owner)

● In-house provenance researchers and conservators

● Flat 10 percent buyer’s premium (vs. up to 25 percent at major auction houses)



Veteran collectors (surprise!) have almost no interest in NFTs. (New York Times)



Zona Maco was lively thanks to a focus on local galleries and restriction-free travel from Europe and the U.S. (Midnight Publishing Group News Pro)



Positive outlooks for economic growth and corporate profits have led investors to greet Joe Biden’s proposed tax hikes as follows: ¯_(ツ)_/¯. (New York Times)


Artwork of the Week

Roy Lichtenstein’s Interior: Perfect Pitcher

Roy Lichtenstein, <i>Interior: Perfect Pitcher</i> (1994). Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd. 2021.

Roy Lichtenstein, Interior: Perfect Pitcher (1994). Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd. 2021.

Clocking in above 10 feet by 16 feet, this vibrant example of Lichtenstein’s “Interiors” series epitomizes the value of a sterling provenance. Only the artist himself and his estate held the painting before its current unlisted owner… who sources claim is none other than Larry Gagosian. (A Gagosian spokesperson denied the claim.) What we do know is that the painting is backed by a third-party guarantee, so no matter what happens on auction night, someone will walk away with this bravura painting—and I’ll bet you that someone owns exactly zero NFTs.