Contemporary art in London



Friday is Top day! Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the top ten auction sales of contemporary art in London.

Hot on the heels of the Top 10 of contemporary art sales in New York, Artprice now takes a look at the 10 highest auction prices recorded in London between July 2012 and June 2013. Two of the names on our list are also the top players in the Western art market: Jean-Michel BASQUIAT and Peter DOIG. On the London listing, Basquiat occupies five of the top ten places (compared to 6 on the New York list), while Doig holds his own with two sales generating the same returns on both sides of the Atlantic.

The main difference between the two Top 10 listings is the overall result. The total receipts generated by the ten most expensive contemporary works in New York were twice as high as those recorded in London (the total for the New York Top 10 stands at $183.1 million compared to $90.91 million for London), with Jean-Michel Basquiat accounting for the lion’s share of this figure. Basquiat’s five sales make up almost 65% of the London total, but his best works are the preserve of the New York market, where prices are always higher. On his own, Basquiat accounts for $124.2 million of the New York top ten results, compared to less than half ($58.82 million) of the London figure.

Three names that appear on the London but not the New York list are German artist Martin KIPPENBERGER (7th), English artist Glenn BROWN (8th) and the American Christopher WOOL (10th).

Top 10 : the top ten auction sales of contemporary art in London.

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $25707980 Untitled (1982) 06/25/2013 (Christie’s LONDON)
2 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $12981200 Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown) (1983) 02/13/2013 (Christie’s LONDON)
3 Peter DOIG $10635200 “The Architect’s Home in the Ravine” (1991) 02/13/2013 (Christie’s LONDON)
4 Peter DOIG $10006100 Jetty (1994) 06/25/2013 (Christie’s LONDON)
5 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $9523305 Untitled (Pecho/Oreja) (1982/83) 02/12/2013 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
6 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $6926040 “Five Fish Species” (1983) 02/12/2013 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
7 Martin KIPPENBERGER $4481120 Untitled (from the series Hand-Painted Pictures) (1992) 10/11/2012 (Christie’s LONDON)
8 Glenn BROWN $3845250 “Oscillate Wildly (after ‘Autumnal Cannibalism’ 1936 by Salvador Dali)” (1999) 06/27/2013 (Phillips LONDON)
9 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $3684830 “Big Joy” (1984) 10/10/2012 (Phillips de Pury & Company LONDON)
10 Christopher WOOL $3128000 “Mad Cow” (1997) 02/13/2013 (Christie’s LONDON)



Martin Kippenberger
Martin Kippenberger would have celebrated his 60th birthday in 2013. To mark the occasion, the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin has been hosting a major retrospective since the start of the year (23 February – 18 August 2013). Kippenberger had a short but prolific career, falling victim to an aggressive form of liver cancer at the age of just 44. He liked to shake things up, push art to its limits and turn up in unexpected places. He never stopped exploring creativity and the ways in which it is recognised and valued. Nomadic, hyperactive, ironic and irreverent, he broke free of artistic convention by developing a style that simply refused to be pinned down.

His first works were sold at auction in 1990, the year of his touring exhibition Cologne/Los Angeles/New York 1990-91. At the time, Kippenberger was exhibiting widely in Europe and attracting a good deal of attention. Collectors found themselves unnerved and yet captivated by this artistic firebrand. His early sales reflected his status as an emerging 37-year-old artist, with drawings selling for between $2,000 and $5,000 and paintings bringing in $3,000 to $6,000. He was never to experience for himself the excitement that his works now generate at major contemporary art sales. His success was posthumous, brought about by his participation in the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 and his first major retrospective in the UK at the Tate Modern in 2006. Between these two career landmarks, one of his canvases broke the million-dollar barrier for the first time in New York (Untitled, 1991, sold for $1,024,000 million –or $900,000 before fees– against a high estimate of $600,000, Phillips de Pury & Company, 12 May 2005). This was followed by twelve more million-dollar sales, reaching a peak of $5 million (including buyer’s premium) in London on 11 October 2012 (Untitled (from the series Hand-Painted Pictures), 1992, Christie’s). This hammer price earns him 7th place in our Top 10, between Jean-Michel Basquiat and Glenn Brown. London is the beating heart of the Kippenberger market, representing 61% of his sales compared to 29.7% in New York and 6.2% in Germany.

Glenn Brown
Glenn Brown is one of the most sought-after English artists of his – and indeed any – generation. At auction, his works rival certain pieces by Henry Moore and David Hockney.
He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2000 and today is represented by the Gagosian gallery. Brown belongs to the generation of Young British Artists that has prospered thanks to initial support from Charles Saatchi. His first canvas appeared in the sale rooms just a few months after showing at the Sensation exhibition at London’s Royal Academy, with Telstar changing hands for £14,500 (close to $24,000 – 3 July 1998, Sotheby’s London). Ten years later, his paintings from this period were bringing in between $200,000 and $400,000 at auction.

He interprets the history of the Great Masters in a highly personal way, ignoring the demands of good taste and appearing to paint in thick impasto, leaving his faces dangling somewhere between the figurative and the abstract. His style has drawn many admirers, including the Tate Modern, which honoured him with a retrospective in 2009. Since then he has sold six works for more than $1 million, setting a new record equivalent to $8 million (including buyer’s premium) on 26 June 2012 for a reinterpretation of Dali (The Tragic Conversion of Salvador Dalí (After John Martin), £4.6 million hammer price at Sotheby’s London).

Our list is rounded off by Christopher Wool. Considered to be one of the most influential artists of our times and sometimes tagged the greatest living American painter, Wool, like Brown, is represented by the prestigious Gagosian gallery and is currently preparing for an upcoming exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York (25 October 2013 – 22 January 2014). Wool has already broken the million-dollar barrier thirty-five times, and this exhibition should serve to consolidate his strong position in the high-end art market.