Phillips Reported Downturn in Global Sales

Phillips Auction House Reported a Sharp Drop in Global Sales, With Private Sales Slumping to One-Third of Last Year’s Total.

Aug 11, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Phillips auction house. Via StudioMDA


Phillips reported a downturn in total sales, after a significant outbreak in 2022. This is a clear representation of how one year can change a lot of things. The business environment is different, reflecting the first half of the business year. The auction houses struggle with shrinking supply and less heated demand in the art world. The auction house released a document of its global sales for the first six months of 2023.


Phillips Sales Drop From 2022

Phillips’s 20th Century & Contemporary Art evening sale. Courtesy of Phillips.


The auction’s houses six months global sales amount $453 million, of which auction sales accounted for $409 million. Compared to the first six months of 2022, global sales were $746 million, of which auction sales accounted for $590 million. That is a 39 percent less from last year’s world sales. Also, a 30 percent less from last year’s auction sales. The 2022 results, compared with first half 2021, represented spikes of 37 percent and 30 percent.


Private sales are also lower. They were a significant source of income, especially during the pandemic. They fell from $156 million to $44 million. In its report, the auction house focused on most important parts of the business. These are strong sell-through rates. They were around 90 percent with a huge visitor and sales outbreak in Hong Kong.


[©(c)Roland Halbe; Veroeffentlichung nur gegen Honorar, Urhebervermerk und Beleg / Copyrightpermission required for reproduction, Photocredit: Roland Halbe]

CEO Stephen Brooks pointed to the dynamic performance of the watches department, saying “Our watch team has continued their unprecedented two-and-a-half-year streak of selling every watch at auction, solidifying their position as the industry leader”. The auction house also said 43 percent buyers are new.


Produced Private Sales

Auction house studio
Phillips studio. Via StudioMDA.

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Phillips also said that 42 percent of buyers were first-time buyers in the first half of 2023, and that 50 artists made their auction debut at Phillips this Spring, including Sarah Cunningham, Yuan Fang, Henni Alftan, Jess Valice, and Emma Cousin, underscoring the house’s continued focus on ultra-contemporary art.


For the private sales division, the auction house produced several selling exhibitions globally, including “(Re)Trace Kusama to Shiota” in Hong Kong, “Pierre Soulages: Une Lumière Infinie” in London, and “Never Above 14th St.” in New York.


Yoshitomo Nara
Yoshitomo Nara, Lookin’ for a Treasure (1995). Courtesy of Phillips.


Upcoming selling exhibitions include “Where the Land Meets the Sea” in collaboration with HENI and Damien Hirst in London, which is slated to be a surefire hit (July 20-August 18); “Legacies of Modernism: A Selling Exhibition of Works by Günther Förg” from the collection of Mikael Andersen in London (August 24 to September 7); and “Briefly Gorgeous in Seoul” (August 30 to September 9), which will have some overlap with Frieze Seoul.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.