Da Vinci masterpiece helps drive 11% sales hike for Christie’s Middle East, Europe

$450m sale of ‘Salvator Mundi’ accounted for chunk of 2017 global sales

FILE PHOTO:   Members of Christie's staff pose for pictures next to Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" painting which will be auctioned by Christie's in New York in November, in London, Britain October 24, 2017.  REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File photo   NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

Christie’s, the UK-headquartered art dealer, reported $2 billion of sales to and from the Middle East and Europe in 2017, up 11 per cent from the previous year and driven in part by the record-breaking $450m sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s "Salvator Mundi" oil painting in November.

Total global sales were up 21 per cent year-on-year to $6.6bn, with sales in the Americas up 62 per cent to $3.2bn and sales in Asia totalling $754.9 million, up 7 per cent year-on-year.

“2017 has been a year to remember for Christie’s, both for its record sales growth and some unforgettable moments, notably the sale of Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi in New York,” said Guillaume Cerutti, chief executive at Christie’s

“In 2018, we will focus on continuing to expand our global client base and improving services to our customers, especially online.”

In December, Christie’s confirmed that Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism had acquired the Da Vinci masterpiece, an oil painting of Jesus Christ, for display at the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi museum. It is the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

"Overall, 2017 was a very strong year for the Middle East and it's a very important market for us," Michael Jeha, the managing director of Christie's Middle East, told The National in an interview. "We're seeing demand grow in the region and increasing participation by Middle Eastern clients at Christie's globally.


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“They’re not just buying Middle Eastern art – their tastes are internationalising and they’re starting to branch out into other categories, such as global contemporary art.”

Luxury – including watches, jewellery and handbags – is another important segment for Middle East buyers, who account for more than 5 per cent of sales globally in this sector (excluding private sales), a spokeswoman for Christie's told The National.

The average value of bought lots by Middle East buyers in the luxury segment represents $235,305, outspending the rest of the world by 81 per cent. The auction house does not break down separate sales figures for the Middle East and Europe.

Overall, Christie’s said auction sales accounted for the bulk of growth in 2017, up 33 per cent year-on-year to $5.9bn. Total sales of art online – including online bidding at live auctions, as well as other digital methods – reached $214.5, a slight drop from $217m in 2016. However, dedicated online sales raised $72.5m, up 8 per cent from 2016, “reflecting clients’ increasing interest in this platform”, Christie’s said.

Meanwhile, new buyers accounted for 31 per cent of all buyers in 2017, the results show, and average sales per auction catalogue increased to 81 per cent from 78 per cent in 2016.

“2018 spring sales are promising,” Mr Cerutti added, especially with the prospect of the auction of US philanthropists Peggy and David Rockefeller in New York in May.