New York dominates London in auction stakes

In 2001, for the third straight year, New York dominated London as the wine-auction world's number one power center.

By now, London may finally have lost its historic franchise as the capital of rare and fine-wine sales.

Who’s up and down is in this international rivalry is defined by Sotheby’s and Christie’s revenue statistics.

When year-end revenues are tallied by secondary auction houses in both cities, New York’s muscle is likely to seem bigger. Acker Merrall & Condit, the independent New York house, indicated as much in reporting US$13.756 million (€14m) in revenues.

Internationally, Sotheby’s edged out Christie’s in wine sales. Sales at Sotheby’s exceeded US$36.4 m (€41m). Those at Christie’s came to US$33m (€38m), according to statistics that both houses disclosed last week.

Sotheby’s reported its worldwide wine revenues rose 32% above those of 2000. Christie’s did not offer a comparable percentile comparison.

Its North American sales (Chicago, New York), Sotheby’s said, fetched US$22.9m (€26m), a rise of 46%, and those in London came to US$13.5m (€15m), up 13%.

Christie’s put its North American sales total (New York, Los Angeles) at US$16. 5m (€18m); its London total at US$12.8m (€15m).

The 2002 auction year looms as a battle of twin optimisms, as couched in the language of the two houses’ press releases.

‘We enjoyed an incredible fall season in the US, ending with the highest-value sale worldwide in 2001,’ said Jamie Ritchie, senior vice president of Sotheby’s wine department. He was alluding to the 1 December auction, which fetched US$4. 3m (€5m).

‘We successfully held fewer sales, with a higher focus on quality this year, and will continue with this strategy in the future,’ Ritchie said. He emphasized that by combining the former Chicago auctions with those in Manhattan, Sotheby’s ‘can offer the greatest range of wines and the best level of service in the industry.’

Christie’s view, expressed by Richard Brierley, head specialist of wine in New York, was that ‘in 2002 Christie’s will be the only international auction house offering sales and hands-on expertise on both coasts’ – in Manhattan and Los Angeles.

He added, ‘A year of offering wines of excellent caliber brought exceptional demand and prices at the upper end of the fine and rare wine market.’

Auction diary dates and contact information

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York24 December 2001