A Picasso Surprise & The Basquiat Boom

picasso sotheby's
Picasso didn’t have a great performance in these sales, but he held top spot for market share with $21 million in sales and 13 percent of the sales total. Photo: Fatih Aktas/Anadolu/Getty Images
Marion Maneker
June 30, 2024

First, the numbers: The London sales saw £128,174,025, or nearly $163 million, change hands for 436 lots. Originally, 557 lots were offered, but consignors lost their nerve on 16 lots with a combined presale value of £8.4 million ($10.68 million), or about 7 percent of the presale total. The sell-through rate without the withdrawn lots was 81 percent. If we add the withdrawn lots back in, it falls to 78 percent—not a huge difference but slightly below the industry average. 

A better indication of market health is the hammer ratio, which measures the aggregate presale estimate of all lots against the total hammer price of those lots. Without the withdrawn lots, the hammer ratio was a neutral 1.0, meaning the overall hammer total was equal to the presale estimate. And with 19-22 percent of the lots unsold, that 1.0 hammer ratio isn’t bad at all. Once we add the withdrawn lots back in, the hammer ratio falls to .92, which is pretty weak indeed. (But still consistent with much of what we’ve seen this year.)