Sarah Thornton Reminds Everyone Not to Be Surprised by Auction House Success

The Christopher Wool in question.

In an analysis piece in The Guardian, Sarah Thornton responds to Christie’s $5.7 billion in sales last year, reminding everyone that even in times of economic uncertainty, these results aren’t terribly odd. They may even be expected, when it comes to hedging investments.

It’s important to remember that we’re dealing with a small number of fantastically wealthy people, she writes, who essentially use the auction houses “as a one-stop shop in the way that certain members of the British middle class rely on [department store] John Lewis.”

“Fifteen years ago financial advisers were not in the practice of recommending that rich people diversify their portfolios by buying art. Now it is the norm. While buying emergent art is high-risk, speculative investment, acquiring established masterpieces is perceived as the opposite – a back-up in hard times. If all goes wrong in the world, if the eurozone cracks, the Middle East erupts in war, and a tsunami hits Manhattan, that rare, portable 1964 Marilyn by Andy Warhol will still be worth something.”

She also reports that at next week’s auctions in London, star lots by Gerhard Richter at Sotheby’s and Christopher Wool at Christie’s are expected to exceed  their high estimates.