Christie's reported sales of $5.7 billion (GBP 3.6 billion) for 2011, which represented a 9 percent year-on-year increase in British pounds. The auction house reports results in pounds so it recorded a jewelry sales increase of 35 percent, but by dollar value that figure rose 41 percent year on year to $600.1 million. Watch sales jumped 21 percent to $116 million, exceeding the $100 million mark for the first time. Strong increases were also recorded for sales of wine and art categories such as 20th Century Decorative Arts, British and Irish Art, Old Masters and 19th Century, Asian Art and Post-War and Contemporary Art. However, sales for Impressionist and Modern Art fell 28 percent.
Christie’s jewelry and watch department observed that the diamond market held strong throughout the year. A perfect heart-shaped diamond of 56.15 carats sold for $10.9 million in Geneva and a pair of cushion-cut diamonds of 23 carats each were sold for $9.3 million in Hong Kong in May. The famous Elizabeth Taylor diamond of 33.19 carats sold for $8.8 million on December in New York.
Colored diamonds also had an excellent year at auction with a pear-shaped diamond of 32.77 carats realizing $6.6 million in New York. During one New York auction, a Burmese ruby of 8.62 carats sold for $4.2 million and an emerald of 23.46 carats was sold for $6.6 million. In Geneva, a Burmese sapphire of 130.50 carats sold for $7.1 million. The famous 16th century Peregrina pearl sold for $11.8 million in New York in December. Another pearl necklace, which Christie’s had sold in New York in 1981 for $72,000, was sold again in Geneva in November for $790,000.
Steven P. Murphy, Christie's chief executive, observed that a global appetite for collecting art and jewelry was reflected in increased buyer activity during 2011. U.S. and European clients accounted for 77 percent of sale registrations, with 13 percent from Greater China, an increase of 2 percent on 2010. Registered clients from Russia and the CIS increased 15 percent. New clients represented 12 percent of the value of global sales.
The website, www.christies.com, welcomed 77 percent more unique visitors than 2010 and 29 percent of Christie’s bidders transacted online. Christie’s LIVE™, the interactive online bidding platform, drew 25 percent more bids than the previous year with two works of art selling across this channel for more than $1 million.
As part of the sales series dedicated to the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor, Christie’s held its first online-only sale, which ran in parallel to the live auctions out of Christie’s New York. The two-week time-based auction resulted in $9.5 million in sales and bidders from 25 countries competed for 973 additional items from Taylor’s personal collection.
''We are operating in an informed market with pricing, curation and presentation key to success,'' said Murphy. ''Christie’s goal is to serve its clients. As we continue to see strong auction sales, we are also responding to the wishes of our clients with Private sales growing and accounting for GBP 502 million of our sales total. Collectors also continue to be inspired by the great collections. We saw intense interest in the Gourdon Collection in Paris, the Norton Collection in New York and the Cowdray Collection in London in particular, all attracting a broad audience. The crescendo of the year was the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor which was seen by 58,000 people in an eight-city tour before being sold at auction in New York in December. With bidders from 36 countries, every one of the 1,778 lots found a buyer contributing to total sales of $157 million.
''As we approach the sales over the next fortnight in London, we are optimistic about the market in 2012. We also remain committed to our role as cultural stewards through our auctions, private sales and exhibitions. Christie’s is a unique place where commerce and connoisseurship is the hallmark of the Christie’s team and we look forward to an exciting series of upcoming sales, exhibitions and partnerships,'' he concluded.