Sotheby's Catches Up With Christie's in Private Sales

Sotheby’s has been selling like a champ in 2007, with a grand total of about $6 billion worth of art at auctions and in private transactions. After falling behind Christie’s International in 2006, Sotheby’s is now drawing even with its rival, according to

Sotheby’s sold $5.33 billion of art at auctions, and arranged more than $668 million of private deals outside the public salerooms, said analyst George Sutton at Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC of Minneapolis. That was a 46 percent increase from $3.66 billion a year earlier. Christie’s estimated its art sales at about $6 billion last year.

Sotheby’s last overtook Christie’s after it sold Pablo Picasso’s “Garcon a la Pipe” for $104.2 million in 2004, then fell behind the next year, based on auction totals. As the art market boomed, Sotheby’s promised minimum prices to sellers to win high-priced works by Francis Bacon and other contemporary artists.

“They won a larger share of the key consignments in 2007,” Sutton said in an e-mail. “As the balance sheet has improved, they have been able to offer more aggressive options for sellers, including guarantees and loans.”