Saturday, February 9, 2008


In 2007 Christie's was able to lower its break-even sales level (at which it covers fixed costs and begins to make a profit) to between $1.8 and $1.9 billion/year. Sotheby's break-even dropped to $1.7 billion.

To lower their break-even point the two houses had to increase the buyer's premium but they did it in several steps not to antagonize too much their customers : fron 10% to 20% on the first £ 250,000 or ($500,000)(1) and 12% above. Lots under £10,000 pay 25%. At the higher rate, a sucessful bidder on q $1 million painting would have to pay an additional $60,000 plus VAT.

As for sellers, they normally pay a commission that starts at 20% but it is often negotiated down to zero for high-value art, as it was for Rockefeller's Rothko, White Center.

In 2006, Christie's auctioned $4.3 billion worth of art (+36%) while Sotheyby's auctioned art worth $3.7 billion (+29%).

(1) the current value in December 2008 of the GBP is well inferior to that level. On the 29th it was 1.44 dollar for £1.

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