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Over the last two weeks, $2.3 bil­lion (R32.9 bil­lion) worth of art was sold on auc­tion at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips in New York. It’s a heady num­ber, though sev­eral in­sid­ers seemed to feel it’s ev­i­dence that the art mar­ket is ac­tu­ally cool­ing down: if ev­ery art­work had reached its high es­ti­mate, the fi­nal tally would have been much higher.

Sure, the auc­tions could have done bet­ter, but it might be ad­vis­able for ev­ery­one to take a step back and put these seven-, eight- and nine-fig­ure num­bers in per­spec­tive.

The top five lots sold dur­ing New York’s Novem­ber auc­tions to­talled $457.8 mil­lion, which is $35 mil­lion more than it cost to build the en­tire 61 000m2, Renzo Piano-de­signed Whit­ney Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art in New York’s Meat­pack­ing District. The top 10 lots to­talled $678.8 mil­lion, which is the same num­ber as the five-time Euro­pean cham­pion Barcelona soc­cer club’s to­tal 2014 an­nual sales.

This isn’t to say that peo­ple shouldn’t buy art, or that they should value boats, planes or man­sions over paint­ings; there are ar­guably far more friv­o­lous things to blow $30 mil­lion on than a Pi­casso. But for in­sid­ers and ca­sual ob­servers alike, it’s easy to get swept away by the num­bers that are air­ily tossed around dur­ing the sales. So, we’re bring­ing them back down to earth (see side­bar).

– Bloomberg

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