Best of 2022 | Christie's annual global sales reach US$8.4b to set record in art market history

After more than two years of pandemic lull, the auction industry is bouncing back from the crisis to pre-pandemic levels – if not better. In fact, 2022 has been a stellar auction year where numerous records were set. As we ring in the new year, let's look back on the "best of 2022" in the auction world. 

In the midst of a gloomy global economy, Christie's achieved a triumphant year in 2022, with total sales racking up to US$8.4 billion, an all-time high in art market history and a 17% increase over the previous year. Detailed by the house, US$7.2 billion of the volume came from auctions, and US$1.211 billion from private sales. 

For auctions, the category of 20th/21st Century Art remained the most robust, bringing in US$6.22 billion, thanks largely to single-owner collections. 

Paul Allen's sale raked in a record-high US$1.62 billion

Paul Allen (right) co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates (left)

When it comes to single-owner collections in 2022, there will be no going past the Paul Allen's show-stopping sale, which alone raked in US$1.62 billion.

A tech mogul, Allen was the one who brought Mircosoft and personal computers into our lives, alongside Bill Gates. But beyond his talents for computing, he was also a private yet omnivorous art collector. Following his death in 2018, Christie's won the consignment of the tranche and the sale took place in November this year. 

His extensive collection, richly filled with blue-chip artworks, has become the most valuable collection sale of all time, beating out the US$922-million Macklowe collection. Five artworks, including paintings from Seurat, van Gogh and Cézanne, sold for more than US$100 million each; and records were set for other 22 artists, such as Lucian Freud. (Click here for a detailed article on the sale

Andy Warhol's Shot Sage Blue Marilyn sold for US$195 million to set a record for a 20th-century artwork

Late philanthropist Anne Bass (1941-2020)

Claude Monet's Le Parlement, soleil counchant sold for US$75.9 million to become the top lot of the Anne Bass sale

Back in May, Andy Warhol's celebrated Shot Sage Blue Marilyn went for US$195 million at the Thomas and Doris Ammann Collection Evening Sale, setting a record for a 20th-century artwork, as well as the second highest price ever achieved for an artwork at auction. 

Another notable sale was the collection of late philanthropist Anne Bass, which gathered US$363.1 million in a 12-lot white-glove auction. Anne Bass (1941-2020) was ex-wife of Texas oil tycoon Sid Bass and one of the richest American women, whose name had been on the Forbes 400 list. An avid art lover since young, she was also a patron of several art institutions, such as Fort Worth Art Museum.

Collectively, these three sales contributed US$2.34 billion to the house, accounting for more than one fourth of its annual total. 

Christie's thematically curated a Post-Millennium Evening Sale in Hong Kong

This year also saw an influx of new collectors, with 35% of all buyers in 2022 being newcomers at Christie's. 34% of the first-buyers were millennials, a 3% rise from 2021, indicating that the new generation of collectors is still driving the house's global business. Of that age group, 40% of buyers were from Asia, where their big money was mostly spent on luxury and contemporary art.

Despite a rapid rise of Asia, Americas remained the most important market to Christie's, representing 40% of total sales, up from 35% last year. The second most active region was EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), where 34% of the volume went. Coming in the third place, Asia-Pacific took home 26% of the total, a 5% drop from the previous year. 

Guillaume Cerutti, Chief Executive Officer, Christie's

Regarding this year's robust performance, Guillaume Cerutti, Chief Executive Officer, commented:

In 2022, despite a challenging macro-environment, Christie’s has achieved our highest ever global sales. Three factors explain this performance: the resilience of the art and luxury markets, the remarkable success of several major art collections— including the unforgettable Paul Allen sale— and the expertise and hard work of our teams around the world.