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Headlines and Highlights: Week of January 12th

Headlines and Highlights: Week of January 12th
January 12, 2024
Keenan Flack

Freeman’s and Hindman Merge


In a significant move for the American art market, Chicago's Hindman auction house is merging with Philadelphia-based Freeman’s, America's oldest auction house. This strategic merger will create the largest mid-tier auction house primarily focused on American art, surpassing the domestic reach of global giants like Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips. The merged entity, operating under the name Freeman’s | Hindman, will consolidate their digital operations into a single website and plans to open a new salesroom in New York. This comes alongside the continuation of their existing sales spaces in Chicago, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Denver, and Palm Beach.

The merger follows a strong performance in 2023, with Hindman generating $99.7 million in sales and growing its appraisal business by 25%, while Freeman’s, which has been operational since 1805, reported about $32 million in sales. Together, the two companies conducted 176 sales last year, featuring top American artists like N.C. Wyeth and Wayne Thiebaud, with pieces priced up to $2 million. Freeman’s, which had been family-owned since its establishment in the early 19th century, changed hands in 2016 to its senior management team. The leadership views this merger as a strategic response to the increasing competition in the auction world, with Freeman’s | Hindman's president Fraser Niven highlighting the potential for greater international client access. ARTNEWS

Phillip’s 2023 Total Auction Sales Fall 15%


Phillips auction house experienced a 15% decrease in auction sales in 2023, making $840.7 million, down from the previous year's $1 billion. This decline is notable for the house, which is the smallest of the three major auction houses, with headquarters in New York, London, and Hong Kong. Phillips focused on restructuring its operations, including the addition of specialists in Asia and consolidation of its Los Angeles operations, while phasing out two regional West Coast positions. 

The top five works sold in 2023 made up more than 10% of all total sales, this includes pieces by Gerhard Richter and Fernand Léger which earned a total of $87.6 million, a significant drop compared to the $173 million from the top five works in 2022, dominated by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Yves Klein. The company did not disclose its private sales figures for 2023, which in 2022 had reached around $250 million, a 20% increase from 2021.

The downturn in Phillips' sales mirrors broader trends in the auction market. Christie's, another major competitor, reported a 30% decrease in auction sales in 2023, dropping from $7.2 billion in 2022 to just over $5 billion. Sotheby's, also a key player in the industry, has not yet released its sales data for 2023. According to ArtTactic, a London-based data company, the overall auction sales in 2023 were down by $2.3 billion from the previous year, indicating a general contraction in the global auction market. ARTNEWS

Collectible Happenings

The high-profile trial between billionaire collector Dmitry Rybolovlev and auction house Sotheby's has begun in a Manhattan courtroom, focusing on allegations that Sotheby's aided Swiss dealer Yves Bouvier in inflating art prices, causing Rybolovlev to overpay by over $1 billion for a total of 38 works. Sotheby's defense claims ignorance of Bouvier's actions, while Rybolovlev's counsel argues for transparency in the art market, with the outcome potentially having significant implications for the industry. THEARTNEWSPAPER

LeBron James has partnered with Fanatics Collectibles following a career of working with Upper Deck. A new set will feature a unique 1-of-1 trading card alongside his son Bronny, to be released in the 2023-24 Bowman University Chrome Basketball set. The card showcases LeBron in his high school uniform and Bronny in his USC Trojans jersey. ESPN 

The Realest, a new merchandise authenticator and marketplace focusing on sports and music memorabilia, recently raised $4.6 million in seed funding in a round led by KB Partners. Founded by Scott Keeney (DJ Skee), The Realest employs a two-tiered authentication process involving witness-based certification and unique hologram stickers for item verification. The company just completed its first sale with Megadeth wherein a guitar from frontman David Mustaine sold for $14,600. SPORTSBUSINESSJOURNAL

CHUBB released their 2023 wealth report. Dive into the report to see how HNW individuals see collectibles fitting into their portfolio. CHUBB

The Trade Show Inventory Discovery Tool, Mascot, will be featured at the upcoming Dallas and Burbank Card Shows. This web-based tool enables attendees to digitally locate specific cards for sale at the events with over 70% dealer participation noted at its debut in Philadelphia last year. SCDAILY

Rally investors received a buyout offer on the 1984 Michael Jordan signing day jersey for $513,985. RALLY

Beckett Collectibles has launched a Manga grading service. BECKETT

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