TOP 10 ARTISTS
The Top 10 artists grossed USD 576 million in 2005, compared to USD 393 million in 2003, a figure that represents 13.6% of the total art auction market. Unusually, a contemporary artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and an old master, Canaletto, were among the top sellers. The top three names however are unchanged...
1- Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973): USD 153,174,166
Picasso once again tops the art market rankings, even though nothing was auctioned in 2005 to compare with his Garçon à la Pipe sold at Sotheby´s New York on May 5, 2004 for USD 93 million. Since this landmark sale Picasso´s prices have gained 20%.
His biggest price was USD 16.6 million for Les femmes d'Alger (J) which sold at Sotheby´s on May 3, 2005. This canvas, estimated at USD 15-20 million, was one of a series of 15 on the theme of harems, bought for USD 213,000 in 1956. Many had already been dispersed in 1997 and 1988 and one, the “O” version, had already found a buyer at USD 29 million having been estimated at USD 10-12 million.
2- Andy WARHOL (1928-1987): USD 86,681,869
Warhol continues his inexorable rise. His work gained another 21% in value over the year. Given this inflation and rising demand a host of collectors are being tempted to sell. No fewer than 660 lots were knocked down in 2005, compared to 584 in 2004. Even the masterpieces found willing buyers.
Liz, a metre square portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, from a series of 13 made in 1963, fetched USD 11.25 million on May 10. However, the record for an Andy Warhol piece belongs, since 1998, to another star of the silver screen, Marilyn Monroe: Orange Marilyn (USD 15,750,000).
3- Claude MONET (1840-1926): USD 61,541,732
As we said last year, the market for Claude Monet´s work is progressively drying up. Only 22 Monets changed hands in 2005, compared to 26 in 2004, and while his prices may be rising again, the historical scarcity of work led to a 24% fall in his total sales, and cost him a place in the rankings. Nonetheless, November´s results are highly encouraging. A 1907 version of Nymphéas, bought for USD 10.5 million in 1989 found a buyer at USD 12.5 million at Christie´s on November 1.
The next day it happened again. Le Grand Canal, one of 37 views of Venice painted by Monet in 1908, was knocked down for USD 11.5 million earning a million dollar profit for the Japanese collector who had bought it for USD 10.5 million on November 15, 1989.
These results tend to confirm that prices for impressionist works are back at their peak. Moreover, it seems that even paintings bought at the height of the speculative bubble of 1989-1990 can now draw substantial profits at auction.
4- Antonio Canal CANALETTO (1697-1768): USD 55,473,710
This was the year´s big surprise. Seeded 239 in 2004, the Venetian master leapt up the rankings to number 4 with a string of million-plus sales in two frenetic days at auction in London on July 6 and 7. Headlining the July Old Masters sale in London, Canaletto managed to pull off the biggest sale of the year.
Venice, the Grand Canal, looking North-East from Palazzo Balbi attracted a telephone bid of GBP 16,600,000 at Sotheby´s on the seventh. The painting was originally owned by Sir Robert Walpole, an English prime minister who had put it up for auction in 1751. This auction knocked over the record only just set the night before at Christie´s for The Bucintoro at the Molo Venice, on Ascension Day, a canvas from the Champalimaud collection which went for GBP 10.2 million.
Earlier in the year, Canaletto had already chalked up a major sale. In January his The Bacino di San Marco, looking east from the Mouth of the Giudecca went under the hammer for USD 4.7 million at Christie´s in New York. As a result of these exceptional sales, the artist's price index rose by 31% over 2005.
5- Mark ROTHKO (1903-1970): USD 41,556,341
With three times more works sold this year than last, and two massive sales including a new record the USD 20 million paid for his 1954 Homage to Matisse Mark Rothko climbed another eight places in the rankings in 2005.
In November 2004, the leading light of abstract expressionism had already set a new record with No.6 (Yellow, White, Blue over Yellow on Gray): USD 15.5 million having been estimated at USD 9-12 million.
Homage to Matisse is now the most expensive post-war painting ever sold at auction.
6- Marc CHAGALL (1887-1985): USD 36,592,410
Chagall makes it back into the Top 10 on the back of a 25% increase in sales volume over 2005 compared with the previous year. His rank owes much to his prolific output. He is the third most sold artist at auction after Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, and six of his canvases went for more than a million dollars in 2005. Until 2003, not one of his paintings had broken the million dollar barrier. The biggest sale was a 1943 painting, Le Jongleur, for USD 3.6 million.
Chagall´s prices are rising and his works are repeatedly beating their estimates. It cost the buyer USD 138,000 on December 14 to take home L´Orgueil, a 1967 watercolour that had been estimated at EUR 50,000-60,000 at Piasa (Paris). At Sotheby´s, Woman and Child with Bouquet, a gouache estimated at EUR 70,000-90,000 on November 3, went for USD 120,000.
Shrinking supply for Chagall works is being met by sustained demand, with the bought-in rate falling from 34% in 2004 to 22% in 2005.
7- Willem KOONING de (1904-1997): USD 36,581,311
Like Rothko, Willem de Kooning is on a roll: Sail Cloth a 1949 work estimated at USD 8-12 million went for USD 11.7 million in May. Three other major canvases easily found buyers at USD 1.15 million, USD 3.2 million and USD 9.5 million, respectively, helping push his annual sales up from USD 15.1 million in 2004 to USD 36.6 million in 2005.
No fewer than 69 works were auctioned this year, compared to 53 in 2004. The record sale for a de Kooning, however, dates back to 1989 and the height of the boom when Interchange (1955) went under the hammer for USD 18 million.
8- Fernand LÉGER (1881-1955): USD 35,701,947
Having reached number 6 in 2003, with a record-breaking USD 20 million sale in November for “La Femme en Rouge et Vert”, Fernand Léger slipped 17 places in 2004. He recovered 15 of these in 2005, however, with plenty of multimillion dollar sales in New York´s Impressionist & Modern Art auctions. Among the most significant results were the GBP 2.6 million (USD 4.8 million) bid for Nature morte à la lampe (1914) on February 8, 2005 and the USD 6.8 million paid for Les campeurs, 1st state on May 3.
Note however, the poor reception accorded to Les maisons dans les arbres at Sotheby´s that same evening. This canvas, from 1914, was estimated at USD 8-12 million and had to be bought in.
9- Jean-Michel BASQUIAT (1960-1988): USD 35,630,019
Jean-Michel Basquiat is the world´s biggest-selling contemporary artist at auction, and retains his place in the Top 10 after twelve sales for over a million dollars in twelve months. He only broke the million dollar threshold for the first time in 1998. His top price this year was for “El Gran Espectaculo” (1983), sold for USD 4.6 million on November 9 at Sotheby´s, just USD 400,000 short of his all-time record set in 2002 with “Profit I”. Basquiat prices rose by another 28% this year, meaning his works have gained 289% in eight years.
10- Lucian FREUD (1922): USD 33,725,319
Collectors renewed their attachment to the artists from the London School with some outstanding bidding which resulted in a new record for Francis Bacon. His 2 metre-high painting, Portrait of George Dyer staring into a Mirror (1967), fetched GBP 4.9 million (including fees) with a pre-sale estimate range of GBP 2.5-3.5 million.
In February 2005, Lucian Freud beat his previous auction price record when Red-haired Man on a Chair, an imposing 1962-1963 canvas (originally estimated at GBP 1.2-1.8 million) sold for GBP 3.5 million (USD 6.5 million) excluding fees. In June, Bella, a portrait of one of the artist´s daughters painted in 1982-1983, found a buyer at Christie´s for GBP 1.8 million. At Sotheby's, a self-portrait entitled Man with a feather went under the hammer at GBP 3.7 million (including fees) matching its high estimate.