Contemporary Outshines Impressionist & Modern – At Least for Investment Returns

And at least for those works that registered in Skate’s Top 5000, our ranking of the most expensive works of art to have sold at auction in nominal USD prices.

In total, 15 repeat sales took place at Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales of Contemporary art last week, including 6 works by Andy Warhol, the perpetual darling of the segment. Amazingly, all of these works achieved a positive annualized effective rate of return (ERR). The lowest of these was 6.03% for Roy Lichtenstein’s Deep in thought (1980), while the highest return was seen by Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (1992).

Works by Warhol generally hugged the middle-upper end of the range of investment returns; the lowest ERR of 14.04% was seen for Mona Lisa (1978), while Brillo box (3 cents off) (1963-64) achieved the highest return of 31.35%. In total, the average return on investment seen for repeat sales of Warhol last week was 23.50%, which nearly equals the overall average for Warhol’s repeat sales (23.86%) in Skate’s Top 5000, which we discussed in our analysis last week.

Although there was plenty of activity in Contemporary last week, performance did not match that of the Impressionist and Modern sales that took place a week earlier. And when one removes artists like Warhol and Lichtenstein from the mix – as Nicholas Forrest argued we should do in a convincing piece over the weekend, the numbers look even less impressive.

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