Contemporary Art: ascending price indexes



London’s prestige Contemporary Art sales on 25 and 26 June (Contemporary Art Evening Auctions) generated £70.2 million for Christie’s and £75.8 million for Sotheby’s (including buyer’s premium).
Bridget RILEY, Francis BACON, Yves KLEIN, Gerhard RICHTER, Andreas GURSKY … The market’s pillars have all posted substantial value accretion over the past decade.

Basquiat: +501%
Among the strongest progressions since 2003, Jean-Michel BASQUIAT is in fact the all-segments champion with a price index up 501% for the past decade. While Sotheby’s offered four of his works on 26 June, Christie’s had a single Basquiat the previous evening; but one that was key to the success of the sale. The untitled mixed technique (1982) offered by Christie’s with an undisclosed estimate generated the artist’s second best-ever result at £16.7 million (£18.7 million including buyer’s premium or $28.88 million) and nearly 27% of the sale’s total revenue.
Behind the phenomenal rise in value of Basquiat (that some think might be over…), the decade’s strongest accretions belong to Yves KLEIN (+421%), Lucio FONTANA (+214%), Tom WESSELMANN (+186%), Gerhard RICHTER (+157%) and Francis BACON (+152%).

Andreas Gursky: +45%
The most media-projected works of the London sales were created by Andreas Gursky, five of whose photographs (from the series Stock Exchange offered by a private European collector) were on sale at Sotheby’s. This was probably the most coherent and comprehensive set of works by Gursky ever presented at a public sale. The works are from a series focusing on financial trading floors in the early 1990s. The pictures of the five human ‘anthills’ were taken in Chicago (two lots), Tokyo, Hong Kong and Kuwait, and they all sold for prices between £520,000 and £1.85 million generating a total of £ 5.464 million and 7.2% of the sale’s revenue.

As Andreas Gursky is the most expensive photographer of our time (no fewer than 19 seven-digit dollar results since 2006), his market attracts speculative buyers and hence his price fluctuations can be quite severe. In fact, his price index today is about 43% lower than the highs it reached in late 2008. However, despite the risks buyers are still very enthusiastic and the strongest result on June 26 was no less than £1 million above its high estimate! His giant Chicago Board of Trade III (edition 2/6, 201 cm x 285 cm) capturing the financialisation of our planet (a phenomenon to which art is no stranger…Particularly his art) fetched the equivalent of $2.8m (over $3.3 million including buyer’s premium) setting a new record for a work from this series.
So despite a roller-coaster price index that has been over-exposed to the fluctuating fortunes of his buyers, Gursky is still a pillar of the Contemporary market and his price index posts 45% increase for the past decade (2003 – June 2013).