Best auction results in H1 2011



Our Friday TOP! Every other Friday Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week we present the ten best auction results in the first half of 2011.

Since 2010, the world’s most expensive masterpieces have returned to auction rooms and attracted bids of tens of millions some of which are detailed in our article The best-ever 2010 auction results. In 2011, hammer prices have again hit the headlines with new records in London, New York and Beijing.

Top 10 : the ten best auction results in the first half of 2011

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 QI Baishi $57 202 000 Eagle Standing on Pine Tree;… 05/22/2011 (China Guardian Auctions Co.)
2 Pablo PICASSO $36 274 500 La lecture (1932) 02/08/2011 (Sotheby’s London)
3 Egon SCHIELE $35 681 800 Häuser mit bunter wäsche… 06/22/2011 (Sotheby’s London)
4 Andy WARHOL $34 250 000 Self-Portrait (1963-1964) 05/11/2011 (Christie’s NY)
5 Francis BACON $32 957 850 Three studies for portrait of Lucian Freud 02/10/2011 (Sotheby’s London)
6 Mark ROTHKO $30 000 000 Untitled No. 17 (1961) 05/11/2011 (Christie’s NY)
7 Lawrence ALMA-TADEMA $26 000 000 The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra 05/05/2011 (Sotheby’s NY)
8 Pablo PICASSO $25 872 000 Femme assise, robe bleue (1939) 06/21/2011 (Christie’s London)
9 Francis BACON $25 536 000 Study for a portrait (1953) 06/28/2011 (Christie’s London)
10 Andy WARHOL $24 500 000 Self-Portrait (1986) 05/11/2011 (Christie’s NY)

TOP regulars: Picasso and Warhol

The world’s most frequent rankings winner, Pablo PICASSO, takes second place in this TOP with La Lecture, a small painting (65.5 x 51cm) representing his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter. This highly publicised work was acquired for £22.5m ($36.2m) on 8 February at Sotheby’s. The Cubism master also takes 8th place with his Femme assise, robe bleue which fetched £17.9m ($25.8m) versus an estimate of £4m to £8m, generating the best result of Christie’s London sale on 21 June 2011. Femme assise, robe bleue, completed in October 1939, is a portrait of another of Picasso’s lovers, Dora Maar, considered the most important artistic “icon” of Picasso’s œuvre.

Andy WARHOL takes 4th and 10th places with two self-portraits which sold at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art sale in New York on 11 May 2011.
The first, which fetched $34.25m, generated the Pop artist’s 4th best-ever auction result. This four-panel self-portrait – with Barron family collection provenance – was estimated at $20m to $30m by Christie’s.
The other work, a highly anticipated large-scale self-portrait in red and black (Self-Portrait), fetched just $24.5m, short of Christie’s $30m – $40m price range by $5.5m. One of a series of six, all in different colour combinations, the other five all belong to museums.

New records…
This TOP’s number 1 position is taken by the Chinese artist QI Baishi whose Eagle Standing on Pine Tree ; Four-Character Couplet in Seal fetched the equivalent of $57.2m on 22 May 2011 at China Guardian in Beijing. That sum represents the artist’s best-ever auction result beating his previous record of $44.7m for flowers and insects at Poly International Auction Co. Ltd in Beijing on 22 November 2009.
In 2010, QI Baishi ranked second in our Top 10 artists by annual auction revenue, just behind Pablo Picasso, who maintained his global leadership, and ahead of Andy Warhol in 3rd place. This year he already has more than 30 auction results above a million dollars to his name!

Egon SCHIELE takes 3rd place in this TOP and signed his best-ever auction result this year when his Häuser mit bunter wäsche (Vordatdt II) (Houses with laundry Suburb II) fetched £22m ($35.6m). Painted in 1914, this work is one of the rare urban landscapes by the Austrian artist still in private hands. None of his works had generated over $20m since November 2006 (Einzelne Häuser/Monk I, fetched $20m on 8 November 2006 at Christie’s). Only three of his urban landscapes have been offered at auction over the last ten years (2001-2011).

… and excellent results!
A Francis BACON triptych painting of his friend Lucian Freud (Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud) substantially overshot its pre-sale range of £7m – £9m when it sold for £20.5m ($32.9m) at Sotheby’s Looking closely: A Private Collection sale on 10 February 2011 in London.
Four months later, Christie’s offered Bacon’s very sombre Study for a portrait. The work generated seven million pounds more than its high estimate when it sold for £16m ($25.5m) on 28 June 2011 in London, the eighth best result for a Francis Bacon in pounds sterling (tenth in dollars).
Mark ROTHKO takes 6th place in this TOP with $30m for a brightly coloured painting: Untitled No. 17. This piece dwarfed its high estimate by $8m on the back of its highly theatrical recent attribution to the artist.

The only 19th century artist in this TOP was the English painter Lawrence ALMA-TADEMA who takes 7th place with $26m for his The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra : 41 Bc (Sotheby’s New York on 5 May 2011). That result was $23m better than the pre-sale low estimate and is now the artist’s second-best auction result behind The Finding of Moses which rocketed to $32m (vs. an estimate of $3-5m on 4 November 2010 at Sotheby’s in New York) completely demolishing his previous record (for the same work) which was acquired for $2.5m at Christie’s NY in 1995. The value of The Finding of Moses multiplied by eleven in just 15 years!