Expert Insights: 5 Key Trends In The Auction World In 2018


Expert Insights: 5 Key Trends In The Auction World In 2018

Five auction specialists give us their expert opinions on the trends that are sure to take collectors by storm this year.

Published on 30 January 2018

After last year’s record-breaking sales, what will 2018 hold for the global auction scene? Here we speak with five auction specialists, who discuss the key trends in the auction world in 2018, and tell us which auctions and lots to watch out for.

Auctions, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Phillips, Bonhams

The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller

Not so much a trend as a phenomenon (perhaps we’re cheating a little with our first entry), this sale of the Rockefellers’ collection of Impressionist, American and Asian art, English and European decorative art, and Chinese, Japanese, Korean and European porcelain will be one of 2018’s most significant auctions. “It is not often that a truly great collection comes to market, and even rarer that it be a sale to benefit charity,” says Jonathan Rendell, deputy chairman at Christie’s Americas.

“The Rockefeller sale combines both together with the great American story of this extraordinary family – a combination of industry, art, and philanthropy.” Gathered over a lifetime and handed down from previous generations, highlights from the collection include Pablo Picasso’s Fillette à la corbeille fleurie (which took pride of place in the Rockefellers’ library at their 65th Street home in New York), Henri Matisse’s Odalisque couchée aux magnolias, and a set of 10 George III mahogany dining chairs estimated at US$50,000 and US$100,000.

Follow the auction: While a specific date has yet to be confirmed, the auction will take place this Spring at Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries in New York, following exhibitions in London (21 February-8 March), Los Angeles (6-12 April), Beijing (6-7 April), and Shanghai (10-11 April).

Lot to watch: Every single one, as Rendell’s enthusiastic response suggests: “It is really hard to choose – the sublime Matisse? The extraordinarily powerful Picasso? The Hopper, the Corot, the Gris? There’s too much choice!”

Auctions, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Phillips, Bonhams


12 bottles of Vosne Romanée, Cros Parantoux, Henri Jayer 1990 sold for US$156,825 last year – the top lot of 2017 at Sotheby’s Wine, in a year that saw the department bring in a total of US$64 million in sales, over 21 auctions across New York, London, and Hong Kong. As demand from collectors around the world drives outstanding prices, does Adam Bilbey, director and head of Sotheby’s Wine, Asia feel that similar trends will carry over to this year’s wine auctions?

“Burgundy from top Domaines such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Jayer, Rousseau, and Domaine Leroy will still be in high demand, given the small production,” is his opinion. “A stronger focus from collectors on the provenance of stock and relatively mature vintages (1982, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1996, and 2000) of Bordeaux first growths and right bank equivalents such as Petrus and Cheval Blanc,” should also feature as a highlight of 2018.

Auctions to follow: “The big collection in our January sale in Hong Kong consists of over 290 lots of the most sought-after wines, with vintages spanning over three centuries.”

Lot to watch: “Our Spring Sales in general are shaping up to be incredibly special, and with two single-owner sales of great significance, that will certainly set the bar for Single Owner Auctions in this region,” says Bilbey.

Auctions, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Phillips, Bonhams


“Over the past few seasons, we have seen a clear increase in demand for the best works by new and established photographers across the board,” remarks Vanessa Hallett, Phillips’ deputy chairman, Americas and worldwide head of Photographs – which goes some way to explaining why the auction house’s Photographs Department brought in over US$22.6 million in global sales last year. “People are looking toward the higher end of the classic and contemporary markets to grow their collections, and searching for top quality material.”

“We are offering truly exceptional and rare-to-the-market works, and collectors are responding enthusiastically. Another interesting trend is that instead of solely focusing on the preeminent works in their region, collectors are acquiring the best works from artists around the world. At Phillips, we are cultivating those growing interests in presenting material that embraces this movement in the market.”

Auctions to follow: “Our first sale of the season is the New York auction on 9 April, which will feature the best of twentieth century and contemporary photographs, as well as continue our tradition of introducing new artists to the secondary market. On 18 May, we will host our London sales, which comprise a Day Sale and our inaugural ULTIMATE Evening Sale, offering a curated selection of exceptional works.”

Lot to watch:John Baldessari’s Duress Series, which includes Person Climbing Exterior Wall of Tall Building/Person on Ledge of Tall Building/Person on Girders of Unfinished Tall Building (estimated at US$40,000 to US$60,000), will be offered in our April auction and is definitely a highlight of our Spring season. It is a unique work that provides some wonderful insight into the artistic process of Baldessari, a central figure of contemporary art.”

Auctions, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Phillips, Bonhams


2017 was a record year for Bonhams’ Whisky department, which celebrated its most successful year ever with total sales of £919,000 (US$1.3 million). With four sales scheduled at its Edinburgh HQ this year, as well as four auctions in Hong Kong, the auction house’s Whisky specialist Martin Green expects established names like Glenfiddich, The Macallan, and Dalmore to remain popular amongst collectors, particularly limited expressions.

“There has for some time been interest – mainly in the Far East and South East Asia – in whisky from closed Japanese distilleries,” Green adds. “This is also true of Scotch whisky. Although whisky from legendary closed distilleries such as Port Ellen and Brora has long been popular with collectors, the announcement that they are likely to reopen within a couple of years may well stimulate more interest.”

Auctions to follow: “Bonhams will hold a whisky auction in Hong Kong on 2 February, where it will offer two very special bottles of Dalmore, including the Dalmore Selene-1951-58 year old, estimated at HK$200,000-260,000 (US$28,140-33,258). Our next auction in Edinburgh on 7 March features a bottle of the Macallan Select Reserve 52 year sold in 1946 and a bottle of Black Bowmore 1964.”

Lot to watch: “The bottle we’re most excited about at the moment is the Dalmore Eos-59 year old in the Hong Kong sale on 2 February. Estimated at HK$220,000 to HK$280,000 (US$28,140 to US$35,820), it was named after the Titan goddess of the dawn, Eos, and is a highly prized expression crafted from two outstanding sherry casks. As only 20 bottles were ever released, it will be interesting to see the level of demand among collectors for such a rare item.”

Auctions, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Phillips, Bonhams


“We can definitely anticipate a Rolex-focused trend in 2018, with contemporary pieces like the ceramic Daytona and new steel Sky-Dweller, vintage pieces like the Paul Newman Chronograph and sports models like the Submariner, GMT and Milgauss,” comments Sam Hines, Sotheby’s newly appointed worldwide head of Watches. “Also deserving honourable mention are limited edition Patek Philippe pieces, such as limited editions from the New York exhibition. Additionally, the Nautilus limited editions from their 40th anniversary celebrations and even any Nautilus in regular production.”

“On a general note, pieces of great condition, rarity and freshness to the market with price bands ranging from a few thousand to a US$1 million are highly sought after,” he says of the watch market, which remains one of the most global and rapidly expanding collecting categories. “We see a significant growth in appetite for watches of the best quality, especially amongst collectors from mainland China, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam. Social media will also continue to hold sway and play an important role in engaging collectors and readers with brands and auction houses for watches.”

Auctions to follow: “Our Spring Auction in Hong Kong on 2 April will see an international growth not just of Sotheby’s Watches, but also the auction market. The calibre of the sale reflects the soaring demand and relevance of the category of watches vis-a-vis the overall auction market. As we continue to source globally and sell centrally, we’re bringing the very best pieces to collectors who gather here for this spectacular occasion.”

Lot to watch: As Sotheby’s upcoming Watch auctions are still open for consignment, it’s best to keep an eye on their website for the latest updates.

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