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Record participation from Asian buyers and a significant uptick in online bidders contributed to the strong result.

Auctioneer Adrien Mayer selling Picasso's Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) for US $103,410,000 at Christie's New York on 13 May. Courtesy Christie's.

Auction house Christie's announced yesterday that their sales reached U.S. $3.5 billion in the first half of 2021. That's 13% higher than sales in the first half of 2019, prior to the pandemic.

Their sell-through rate reached a record 87%.

Clients in Asia contributed 39% of the total sum, well above thee 33% from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and the 28% from the Americas. Christie's CEO Guillaume Cerutti described the participation from Asian clients as 'unprecedented.'

The auction house stepped up its game in China this year, launching its own WeChat mini programme and an account on lifestyle app Xiao Hong Shu (RED). Both are strategies luxury brands have employed in recent years to reach wealthy Chinese customers.

Jean-Michel Basquiat Warrior sold for HK$ 323,600,000 at Christie's Hong Kong on 23 March 2021. Courtesy Christie's.

Christie's also built its customer base outside China. Thirty percent of buyers purchased from Christie's for the first time this year, up from 26% in 2019, but this growth wasn't driven by Asia. More new buyers came from EMEA (39%) and the Americas (33%) than the Asia Pacific region (29%).

Notably, two thirds of Christie's new buyers were participants in online auctions, whose sales grew 178% to $222.7 million.

Cerutti said that Christie's NFT auctions 'opened the door for an entirely new base and generation of artists and clients'.

They sold NFTs worth $93.2 million in the first half of 2021, though $69 million of that came from just one work, Beeple's Everydays, with another $17 million coming from Larva Labs' Cryptopunks. A promising 73% of those who registered to bid on the NFTs were new to Christie's. They had an average age of 38, 13 years younger than the clients in other sales.

In 2020, Sotheby's sales of $5 billion edged ahead of Christie's $4.4 billion. —[O]

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