Phillips said its global sales for the first half of 2023 were $453 million, a substantial 39 percent drop compared to the $746 million it reported for the first half of 2022. That year was a 37 percent increase compared to the $542.7 million in total sales reported for the first half of 2021.
Auction sales accounted for $409 million of the total sum for the first half of 2023, which also includes private sales. That’s a 31 percent decrease from the $590 million reported for the same period last year. This year’s figure was also lower than the $452 million reported in the first half of 2021.
Private sales were also down significantly, to $44 million, a 72 percent decrease from last year’s result of $156 million.
The drop in private sales appears even more stark considering that last year’s result was a record high, even as Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips returned to the traditional auction sales calendar. That 2022 private sales figure signaled a strong recovery for the house from the pandemic months after an industry-wide shift that moved sales into hybrid and online formats.
By way of more positive evidence, Phillips cited its contemporary art day sales, where the works of emerging and trending midcareer artists, often painters, are offered around primary market prices. These figures are considered to be more accessible.
In a statement, Phillips pointed to a wave of new entrants to sales, both artists and clients, as a metric of success. Between January and June, 50 artists were introduced to the auction stage through Phillips, including Sarah Cunningham, Yuan Fang, Henni Alftan, Jess Valice, and Emma Cousin. New and younger collectors, Phillips said, were also a focus in the spring. More than 40 percent of buyers came to Phillips for the first time. Millennial and Gen Z collectors made up 30 percent of bidders and buyers.
In recent months, other executives overseeing businesses at the top of the market have publicly warned of a market dip. In July, Christie’s revealed that it had generated $3.2 billion in sales in the first half of 2023, a 23 percent drop from its 2022 results for the same period. Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti attributed the results to a “challenging macro-environment.”
Meanwhile, in June, the online art platform Artsy had layoffs. In an internal email, its CEO attributed the cutbacks to “broader economic headwinds and an art market slow down.”
In a statement, Phillips CEO Stephen Brooks said, “Continued expansion of market share across the categories offered has also been a priority for us.” A Phillips representative declined to specify the effects of the sales drop on its internal business operations. There are no planned staff reductions.